This festive season, prepare for a delightful treat that combines Christmas joy with intellectual prowess as the University Challenge Christmas Series makes its return to the BBC on Monday, 18th December. With Amol Rajan at the helm, this special edition of the quiz show guarantees to captivate audiences nationwide.

The Christmas series will showcase distinguished alumni from various universities, individuals who have nurtured some of the brightest minds. These alumni are poised to exhibit their intellectual prowess in this special holiday edition. The roster includes a diverse array of personalities, from journalists and TV presenters to politicians and academics. The complete list of well-known participants can be found below.

Amol Rajan says: “The holiday season is the perfect time to celebrate not only the joy of the season but also the brilliance of the minds that have emerged from these esteemed institutions. The University Challenge Christmas Series is a unique blend of festive cheer and intellectual competition, I can’t wait for viewers to join us. I’m also thrilled to report that after much excitable feedback on social media, the new black chair in which I sit is proportionately lower. Never let is be said that we fail to respond to our beloved national community of quizzers”

Peter Gwyn, Executive Producer: “We’re thrilled that so many fine minds and well known faces have agreed to entertain us over the festive season by taking on the kind of questions we usually throw at our brainiest students. Some very merry ding-dongs lie ahead!”

Kalpna Patel-Knight, Head of Entertainment Commissioning at the BBC says: “I’m delighted that viewers get to enjoy another year of University Challenge’s festive fun with Amol Rajan. Get ready for a merry collision of wit and wisdom as our teams battle it out.

Make sure not to miss the University Challenge Christmas series, kicking off on 18th December at 20:30 on BBC Two and iPlayer. Tune in for a holiday special that guarantees to be the convergence of tradition and trivia!

Line Up

King’s College London:

  • Lucy Powell, Labour MP for Manchester Central
  • Ayshah Tull, Journalist, Channel 4 News presenter and Correspondent
  • Chibundu Onuzo, Award-winning novelist (The Spider-King’s Daughter; Welcome to Lagos; Sankofa)
  • Ali Ansari, Expert in modern Iranian history and politics; Professor at St Andrews and founding director of its Institute for Iranian Studies

City, London:

  • Zing Tsjeng, Editor-in-Chief of Vice UK and Vice.com
  • Joe Crowley, Presenter and journalist (The One Show; Countryfile; Holiday Hit Squad).
  • Martha Spurrier, Barrister and human rights campaigner; Director of Liberty UK
  • Sebastian Payne, Director of think-tank Onward; former political journalist

Royal Holloway, London:

  • Joby Talbot, Composer for concert (Luminescence; Sneaker Wave), stage (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; The Winter’s Tale) and screen (Sing; The League of Gentlemen)
  • Tahmima Anam, Award-winning historical novelist (A Golden Age; The Good Muslim; The Start-Up Wife); named in Granta’s ‘Best of Young British Novelists’ (2013)
  • Kayo Chingonyi, Award-winning poet (Kumukanda; A Blood Condition); lecturer in Creative Writing at Durham University
  • Liz Sayce, Disability rights activist; former Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK, Chair of the Commission for Equality in Mental Health

University of East Anglia:

  • Bendor Grosvenor, Art historian, writer and broadcaster (Fake or Fortune; Britain’s Lost Masterpieces).
  • Mohammed Hanif, Journalist (New York Times; former head of BBC’s Urdu service and correspondent in Karachi) and novelist (A Case of Exploding Mangoes; Our Lady of Alice Bhatti).
  • James Scudamore, Award-winning novelist (The Amnesia Clinic; Heliopolis; Wreaking;
  • English Monsters)
  • Karen Duff, Leading researcher into Alzheimer’s Disease; Director of the UK Dementia Research Institute.

University of Dundee:

  • Holly Hamilton, BBC presenter and journalist (Breakfast; Sunday Morning Live; 2022 Commonwealth Games)
  • Susan Philipsz, Turner Prize-winning installation artist
  • Saleyha Ahsan, Doctor, journalist and presenter (Dispatches; Horizon; Trust Me I’m A Doctor)
  • Keith Harris, Artist manager (Junior Giscombe, Stevie Wonder) and music industry consultant (Chair of UK Music’s Diversity and Equality Taskforce)

Bangor University:

  • Juno Dawson, Award-winning author of Young Adult fiction (This Book Is Gay; Clean; Meat Market) and non-fiction (The Gender Games)
  • David Neal, Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration; formerly Provost Marshal of the British Army and commander of the First Military Police Brigade.
  • Andy Clements, Chair of the England Species Reintroduction Taskforce; former CEO of the British Trust for Ornithology
  • Hywel Williams, MP for Arfon since 2001 (Plaid Cymru)

Corpus Christi, Oxford:

  • Michael Cockerell, Author (Unmasking our Leaders) and Emmy Award-winning political documentary maker (The Great Offices of State; The Secret World of Whitehall; Inside the Commons)
  • Alex Bellos, Mathematician and mathematics communicator; puzzle writer for The Guardian
  • Francesca Happe, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, specialising in autism, at King’s College London
  • Steve Waters, Playwright (Temple; Limehouse; The Contingency Plan)

University of Edinburgh:

  • Ruth Davidson, Former Leader of the Scottish Conservatives; now sits in the House of Lords
  • Olly Smith, Wine expert, writer and presenter (Saturday Kitchen; regular column for Daily Mail; podcast ‘A Glass With’)
  • Freddy McConnell, Journalist, author, and LGBTQ+ rights activist
  • Malcom Fraser, Architect and advocate for social and environmental responsibility in Architecture

Imperial College London:

  • Helen Arney, Science presenter, musician, stand-up comedian (Festival of the Spoken Nerd; Infinite Monkey Cage).
  • Mark Silcox, Comedian and actor (Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back; Man Like Mobeen).
  • Anjana Ahuja, Science correspondent (The Times; Financial Times) and author (Selected; Spike).
  • Susannah Maidment, Palaeontologist at London’s Natural History Museum; internationally recognised expert on stegosauri.

University of Liverpool:

  • Ian Ritchie, Saxophonist, composer, and producer, working with artists including Laurie Anderson, Roger Waters, and Gary Numan.
  • Joyce Tyldesley, Archaeologist and Egyptologist; Professor at the University of Manchester and broadcaster.
  • Ann Limb, Educationalist, business leader, and philanthropist; first female Chair of the Scout Association.
  • Jim Woodcock, Computer scientist and Anniversary Professor of Software Engineering at the University of York; Editor-in-Chief of the journal ‘Formal Aspects of Computing’.

Middlesex University:

  • Baroness Lola Young, Former actor and presenter, now independent cross-bench peer and Chancellor of the University of Nottingham.
  • David Hepworth, Music journalist, author, and television presenter (The Old Grey Whistle Test); founder of magazines including Q and Empire.
  • Heather Phillipson, Poet and artist (‘Rupture Number 1’ for Tate Britain; ‘The End’ for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square).
  • Dan Skinner, Comic actor and writer (Shooting Stars; Friday Night Dinner; House of Fools; ‘Brian and Roger’ podcast)

University of Leeds:

  • Claire Cashmore, Swimmer, Paralympic Gold Medallist.
  • Kunle Barker, Property expert, writer (Architects’ Journal), and broadcaster (Grand Designs Live; Love Your Home and Garden).
  • Kenton Cool, Climber and mountain guide; leader of multiple ascents of Everest including with Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
  • Mike Begon, Professor of Ecology at the University of Liverpool; co-author of one of the foremost textbooks in ecology worldwide.

University Challenge Christmas (9 x 30) is produced by Lifted Entertainment, part of ITV Studios, and is produced in association with Richard Reid for the College Bowl Company. It was commissioned for BBC Two and iPlayer by BBC Head of Entertainment Commissioning Kalpna Patel-Knight. The Commissioning Editor for Entertainment is Suzanne McManus. The Executive Producer for Lifted Entertainment is Peter Gwyn, and the Series Producer is Clare Parody. University Challenge has been produced in the North West for over sixty years.