College

Former women-only college criticised for fielding all-male University Challenge team

JP Bowen

St Hugh’s college, originally an all-female college, has attracted criticism for fielding an all-male team on BBC quiz show University Challenge, prompting presenter Jeremy Paxman to joke in the introduction of the show: “On the basis of tonight’s team, we could be forgiven for thinking they’d [men] rather taken it over.”

Founded in 1886 by Elizabeth Wordsworth, St Hugh’s was created for women who could not meet the expenses for existing colleges. In 1987 the college began accepting men, and counts amongst its alumni Theresa May, Nicky Morgan and Aung San Suu Kyi. The college describes itself as being “a vibrant, co-educational establishment, which remains very proud of its radical tradition and beginnings.”

St Hugh’s has said that team members were selected by the roughly 800 students at the college. This is not however the first time that University Challenge has been accused of being male dominated. Last year, only one fifth of competitors on the quiz show were female, with the final battled out between two all-male teams.

Paxman said in an article for the Financial Times earlier this year: “The students are encouraged to enter teams which broadly reflect their institution. I suspect that – like football or darts – more males than females care about quizzing.”

A spokesperson for the BBC has responded to the criticism saying: “The make-up of each team is determined by the universities themselves, and whilst we do encourage them to reflect the diversity of their student population, ultimately each university has their own team selection process.”

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