Jeremy Paxman stepping down as University Challenge host after 28 years
Jeremy Paxman is stepping down as the host of University Challenge after 28 years, ending his reign as the longest-serving current quizmaster on UK TV.
The 72-year-old, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease last year, has presented the show since it was revived by the BBC in 1994.
He will film his last episode this autumn and his final series will air on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer from Monday August 29 through to summer 2023.
The journalist and broadcaster said: “I’ve had a blast hosting this wonderful series for nearly 29 years.
“I’ve been lucky enough to work with an amazing team and to meet some of the swottier brains in the country. It gives me hope for the future.”
In June 2014, Paxman left BBC current affairs programme Newsnight after 25 years as its presenter.
He revealed in May 2021 that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Kate Phillips, the BBC’s director of unscripted, said: “Since the BBC revived University Challenge in 1994 Jeremy has been at the front and centre of the show’s success and is without doubt one of the world’s finest, and most formidable quizmasters.
“We are hugely grateful to Jeremy for his dedication to the programme for an incredible 28 years, he will be much missed by us all and the show’s millions of viewers.”
University Challenge’s executive producer Peter Gwyn said: “Jeremy has been our presenter, colleague and friend for 28 years, and everyone on the University Challenge production team will miss him greatly.
“He’ll be sorely missed too by both our audience and by the generations of students who’ve relished the chance to pit themselves against him in more than a thousand matches.”
The new presenter of the programme, which pits students in teams of four against rival universities and colleges with questions including “starters for 10”, will be announced later this week, the BBC said.
University Challenge first aired in 1962 hosted by Bamber Gascoigne and this year celebrates its 60th anniversary as the Britain’s longest running TV quiz show.
To mark the occasion, a special documentary will air on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer on Monday August 29 at 9pm.
Former University Challenge contestant Bobby Seagull, who shot to fame thanks to his fierce rivalry with Eric Monkman on the TV quiz show during a semi-final, told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “I’m, like many other fans, sad to see the end of the time of the great and formidable Jeremy Paxman.
“He has just become an institution. Many quiz fans every Monday night we have a routine, the pinnacle of the quiz night is University Challenge, Paxman since 1994 has been the centrepiece of that.
“Jeremy Paxman, he generally really respects the idea of a programme where young people and older students can demonstrate their knowledge, it shows value of knowledge.
“University Challenge is the epitome of that. There are gimmicky game shows that are fun, University Challenge is all about the knowledge and that is something that is really prized in the 21st century.”
Maths teacher Seagull, who thinks former Pointless host Richard Osman or Scottish TV presenter Kirsty Wark could take over from Paxman, added: “There was an element of sneering but I think it is that fearsome nature which made it such a tough show.
“University Challenge is unashamedly a very challenging quiz show… it is meant to make people feel under immense pressure, it is definitely meant to be the most terrifying quiz show out there.”
Born in Leeds, Paxman started his career in 1972 on the BBC’s graduate trainee programme, working in local radio and reporting on the Troubles in Belfast.
Shortly after moving to London in 1977, he transferred from Tonight to investigative flagship programme Panorama, before stints on the Six O’Clock News and BBC One’s Breakfast Time.
He became a presenter of Newsnight in 1989, a position he would hold until June 2014 during which time he interviewed high-profile figures from politics and culture.
Bowing out after 25 years, Paxman presented a Newsnight programme including an interview with then-London mayor Boris Johnson, while they both rode a tandem bicycle.
He announced in May 2021 he was being treated for Parkinson’s but said his symptoms were “currently mild”.
Earlier this month, ITV announced a documentary in which Paxman will reflect on his diagnosis and meet those at the forefront of research.