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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 1 April, 2003, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Birkbeck bites back to win quiz series
Jeremy Paxman
Host Jeremy Paxman was excited by the contest
Four part-time students have become the oldest team yet to win the BBC quiz University Challenge.

Bit-part actor Colum Gallivan, 53, who has appeared in EastEnders and Father Ted, was among the contestants from Birkbeck College, London, with a combined age of 165.

The glory is a far cry from the 40 points a team from the college gained six years ago, the lowest score of the series.

It is the first time Birkbeck has taken the trophy, which has been won by Oxford colleges in four out of the eight years since the BBC2 show was revived.


Birkbeck - a defeated finalist in 1998 - beat another side comprised of older competitors, Cranfield University, with a team with a total age of 153.

Cranfield, whose students are almost entirely postgraduates, had never reached the final before.

Birkbeck captain Tony Gillham, 38, said: "We were fairly relaxed in the first matches, but as the pace hotted up and we got closer to the final, it dawned on us that we might actually make it.

"Even Colum, who is used to TV appearances, started sweating.

"We were so shocked when we heard the gong. It took a few minutes before it dawned on us that we'd actually won."

Birkbeck beat two Cambridge colleges, University College London and Sheffield University on their march to the final.

The team was neck and neck with Cranfield until a late flurry. Quizmaster Jeremy Paxman told the winning team: "You left it pretty much on a knife edge all the way through."

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