Cambridge gets revenge over Oxford in University Challenge final

Rebecca Alldridge 7 April 2014

Cambridge has redeemed itself after Sunday's demoralising defeat on the river, as Trinity College thrashed Oxford’s Somerville College with an impressive win in the final of University Challenge 2014.

The competition began fiercely with Oxford's Somerville College on 50 and Cambridge's Trinity College on 75 after ten minutes, but Trinity soon pulled ahead and soared to a convincing victory with a final score of 240 to Somerville’s 135.

Emma Colliver, a former Trinity student, expressed her satisfaction at the result, “after yesterday's disappointing boat race defeat, it's great to see a Cambridge team beating our Oxford rivals at the ultimate Varsity competition, winning the University Challenge title today. Congratulations Trinity!”

The Oxford star of the evening was Zachary Vermeer, while particularly impressive on the Cambridge side was zoologist Filip Drnovsek Zorko. The other team members who contributed to the impressive victory for Trinity were Matthew Ridley, Ralph Morley and Richard Freeland.

The questions were as usual incredibly difficult and obscure and included naming famous classical music composers based on excerpts from their compositions, identifiying famous literary workers from only a painting and answering questions on the production of tea around the world.

Yet the Cambridge team remained unfazed, even cracking a joke about a rather minimal painting of the scientist James Watt: "Don't have much to go by here do we, a floating head… darkness and light, Manicheanism".

Cambridge trails Oxford quite substantially in terms of overall wins since Paxman revived the University Challenge format in 1994. Oxford teams have won 7 times, Manchester University has won 4 times (though it has a coach specifically allocated to training for the show) and Cambridge teams have won 3 times.

Despite the success of the revival, University Challenge has begun to attract critics in recent years who claim that the questions have been getting easier. Jeremy Paxman has refuted this suggestion, stating in an interview in 2012: “It’s not true because we have deliberately made the questions more difficult. They’re far more difficult than ever and that’s because the overall level of knowledge has gone up.”

Another cause for concern has been the notable lack of females present in this year’s competition. Out of 112 contestants across 28 university teams, only 18 were women, while of the 8 contestants in the final, none were female. This was particularly interesting given that Somerville College is both Margaret Thatcher’s old College and was an all female College until 1994. 

However, the College’s Junior Common Room President was quick to emphasise that the selection process was very fair: “it just so happened that four men came out on top”.

Nonetheless, it was a great result for Cambridge and Trinity College. As Emma rightly put it: “Newton would be proud”.