Leicester team to feature on University Challenge Christmas series

Credit: Lifted Entertainment/ITV Studios

A celebrity team of Leicester graduates will look to channel the winners of the first-ever series of University Challenge for a special Christmas series, almost 60 years on.

Four University of Leicester students won the first-ever series of the popular BBC quiz show in 1963, beating Balliol College, Oxford in the grand final.

Now, a team of famous faces will represent the University in a Christmas series hosted by regular presenter Jeremy Paxman.

The Leicester team comprises of author and TV presenter Dallas Campbell, Law graduate and newsreader Sian Lloyd, Earth Observation scientist Andrew Shepherd, and author Jeffrey Boakye.

They face a team from the University of Edinburgh in the first episode of the Christmas series, to be broadcast on BBC TWO at 8.30pm on Monday 20 December 2021.

Illustration of Leicester's 1974 University Challenge team, featuring Sandya Narayansami, taken from the Our 100 book celebrating the University's Centenary. Credit: AmCo Studio Ltd

As well as providing the 1963-winning team, the University of Leicester has also seen other firsts: in 1974, Sandya Narayansami became the first Indian woman to compete on the show, her team beating St John’s College, Oxford.

Her story is told in the Our 100 book, released in this Centenary year to celebrate a collection of 100 objects, concepts and people that define the University’s past, present, and future.

“We made the quarter or semi-final, so did well. I received a lot of fan mail, including three proposals,” Sandya writes.

“Bamber Gascoigne said I had ‘exceptionally broad general knowledge for a science major’. I replied: ‘That’s because I spent all my time in the library. I read extensively and retained what I read.

“At Leicester, I was treated like an intelligent human being and graduated with a first-class degree at the top of my year.”

The Our 100 team worked with award winning illustrators AmCo Studio Ltd to bring the 100 stories to life through words and images. The illustrations drew inspiration from University archives and the contributions received from our communities.

Explore the University of Leicester’s Centenary celebrations, Our 100 and more about our story so far at le.ac.uk/centenary.