Page last updated at 15:30 GMT, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

University quiz win 'tarnished'


Manchester's team members say theirs was a 'victory by technicality'

University Challenge's new winners, University of Manchester, say their victory has been "tarnished" after their opponents were disqualified.

They were named winners after it was found the original victors, Corpus Christi College, Oxford, fielded a a contestant who was no longer a student.

Henry Pertinez said he and his team members were unhappy at their "victory by technicality" in the BBC Two quiz.

Ex-presenter Bamber Gascoigne has branded the affair "a fiasco".

'Sad occasion'

Corpus Christi member Sam Kay, from Surrey, was a student at the college in the earlier rounds of the competition but was working as an accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers by the time the final was filmed.

Viewers watched as Mr Kay said he was studying chemistry.

Bamber Gascoigne on University Challenge. Pic courtesy Granada
To fail to produce a series of University Challenge, based on university life, not within a single university year, is pathetic
Bamber Gascoigne

On Monday, the BBC and the programme's makers, Granada, said they had "no choice" but to transfer the title because "students taking part must be registered at their university or college for the duration of the recording of the series".

Mr Pertinez, 27, told BBC News: "It's a sad unfortunate situation really so it's kind of tarnished what was a really excellent series and a fantastic final.

"It's certainly more empty than if we'd won it on the night."

Team captain Matthew Yeo, 25, said: "I think our friends and family and supporters all feel much the same as we do that it's been a very sad occasion as well.

"Our thoughts go out to Corpus."

Gascoigne, 74, who presented University Challenge on its original ITV run from 1962 to 1987, said: "First of all, to fail to produce a series of University Challenge, based on university life, not within a single university year, is pathetic.

"Apparently, they normally record the early rounds at the end of one year in May and the later rounds at the beginning of the next year in November."

He said that, during his time on the show, "we recorded the entire series within one academic year and this problem never could arise".

'Mildly embarrassing'

Speaking after the BBC's announcement, Mr Kay apologised saying "it was never my intention to mislead anyone".

Our students entered University Challenge in good faith
Corpus Christi College

"I hugely regret not confirming my change of status to the University Challenge programme makers before the final rounds," he added.

Current host Jeremy Paxman, who has presented the show since it was revived for the BBC in 1994, said the episode had been "mildly embarrassing" but that "rules are rules".

Last week's final, watched by more than than 5.3 million viewers, had already made headlines thanks to the performance of Corpus Christi captain Gail Trimble.

The 26-year-old was nicknamed "the human Google" after scoring two-thirds of her team's 1,200 points on the way to the final.

A spokesperson for Corpus Christi said: "Our students entered University Challenge in good faith.

"The team had a wonderful run and we are, of course, disappointed to be losing the title."

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