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MDX alumni defeat Corpus Christi Oxford in Christmas special of University Challenge

05/01/2024
The team of high profile former Middlesex students triumphed after beating Leeds, Bangor and Oxford universities

University Challenge

Middlesex University won the grand final of the University Challenge Christmas Series in what was hailed a “phenomenal” performance. The team of MDX alumni defeated Corpus Christi Oxford with 175 points to 80 on the long-running BBC quiz show.

The winning team was made up of Heather Phillipson (captain), a poet and artist who was once commissioned to create a Fourth Plinth design in Trafalgar Square, David Heathcote, a Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design and Illustration at Liverpool’s John Moores University,  Baroness Lola Young, a former actor and presenter and now independent cross-bench peer who is the Chancellor of the University of Nottingham and David Hepworth, a music journalist and author who founded the magazines Q and Empire.

“That was absolutely brilliant, phenomenal and you were up against a very, very strong side and you (Middlesex) made it look almost easy which is quite an achievement.” University Challenge host Amol Rajan.

In the previous episodes in which the MDX team defeated the University of Leeds they had been captained by Dan Skinner, a comic actor and writer, best known for his character of Angelos Epithemiou from the show Shooting Stars.  Dan was unable to attend the final due to filming commitments. MDX averaged a staggering 185 points in the first two episodes. Heather took over as captain in the finale.

The grand final included a diverse range of questions on everything from the FA Cup in which Grimsby Town was the right answer, the 1984 Miners’ Strike, a poem called Journey of the Magi, Rainbow Finch birds which are native to Australia and on minerals used in cosmetics.

Baroness Young said: “We had great fun romping through the heats and winning the final. We were proud to represent disciplines in media, cultural studies and the arts, subjects which have since been devalued, and closed down. We would particularly like to thank Barry Curtis who was an inspirational teacher and mentor to several of us.” Fellow team member David Hepworth said it was “amazing how much four people turn out to know between them and just how far guesswork can take them when they don’t”.

Host Amol Rajan, who took over as presenter in the current 53rd series, said: “What a magnificent performance. Middlesex, you are the champions. That was absolutely brilliant, phenomenal and you were up against a very, very strong side and you made it look almost easy which is quite an achievement.”

Commenting on the victory, Sean Wellington, Interim Vice Chancellor of Middlesex University, said: ‘I was so proud to see the team of Middlesex University alumni emerge victorious on the Christmas edition of University Challenge. Their depth of knowledge on such a wide range of subjects was truly impressive. We are delighted to have such talented alumni and hope their incredible success inspires our current students."

The competition also featured teams from King’s College, Imperial College London, the University of Liverpool, the University of Edinburgh, Royal Holloway and the University of East Anglia.

Watch the grand final of University Challenge on BBC iPlayer.

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