My experience taking part in BBC Two’s University Challenge

RGU‘s University Challenge team won their first two rounds of the competition to qualify for the quarter finals, after our first and only appearance on the show as a university in 1994! RGU alumna Faye Cooke, one of the members of this impressive team, shares her experience of applying and filming for the show.

Why did you decide to take part in University Challenge?

I’ve watched University Challenge for two decades: as a teenager with my mum; as an undergraduate with my flatmates; and, for the last 13 years, with my partner. I’m a career changer, so this was probably my last chance to take part. I’d recommend it to anyone studying at a UK university. Simply contact your student union or University Challenge and get a team together. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

How did the team meet?

It was pretty serendipitous that the only time I read to the bottom of the Student Bulletin, I saw Emily’s call to audition. After emailing back and forth, I met her, Donald, Samuel and another prospective for a Zoom quiz. They couldn’t make the audition in the end so it was a scramble to find a replacement. My classmate luckily stepped in and then the lovely Ingrid eventually joined us.

Can you tell us more about the selection process?

Other teams had formed and applied by November. We finally got ours together two months later. The audition was in Edinburgh and involved a written quiz as well as answering a few informal questions about our subjects and outside interests. They wanted to see how we worked as a team.

When I learned we made it to the first round of the show, I was surprised, delighted, and then very nervous. The team WhatsApp chat contained a few expletives.

How was your experience of filming for television?

I had a bad cold on the first day of filming. As I walked to the pharmacy at 8am, I felt sick with worry about how we were going to perform and whether I’d make it through without coughing. In the end, it was just lots of fun and we really enjoyed getting to know the producers/crew as well as the other teams.

What are your main takeaways from the experience?

Cheesy, I know, but definitely the friendships made. One of the joys of academia is meeting people you otherwise wouldn’t have. I almost missed out on that, studying off campus during COVID.

I love our team. We’re diverse in terms of age, nationality, etc, but we bonded over music, a dry sense of humour and an experience that not many folk get to have.

What is your proudest moment of the whole experience?

Getting a starter for ten feels great, and also surprising people with your knowledge. I don’t think anyone expected me to answer a hip hop question! Other universities have a long legacy of University Challenge appearances so our achievement is all the sweeter for being a relatively unknown institution on the show. We all worked really hard to prepare while studying, working and caring for loved ones, and for that we are pretty proud.

Faye Cooke

Learn more about RGU’s University Challenge team on RGView and keep an eye out on our social channels to make sure you don’t miss the quarter finals!

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