Quizbowl in the United Kingdom
There is an active collegiate-level quizbowl circuit in the United Kingdom, with most major tournaments having a mirror in the United Kingdom. A quizbowl scene was first established in the UK with the 1998 British Student Quiz Championships (BSQC), but was largely dormant from 2004-2010. Since the revival of BSQC in the 2011 edition, the circuit has remained active, although most inter-university tournaments are still mirrors of US tournaments. The most well-known form of student quiz in the United Kingdom is the University Challenge television programme, a knockout buzzer quiz tournament between university teams, but this is generally considered "not quizbowl". There is also a secondary school circuit consisting near-totally of Schools Challenge, a tournament of similar format to University Challenge.
Inter-university quizbowl has been played in the United Kingdom since the late 1990s, beginning with the 1998 British Student Quiz Championships (BSQC). The circuit went dormant from 2004-2010, but began to be revived with the 2010 European SCT and the 2011 BSQC. Oxford and Cambridge have historically been by far the most successful teams in the UK circuit, although since 2021 the circuit has become more competitive, with Southampton and Imperial winning their first major titles and Edinburgh reaching the final of the 2022 BSQC.
British Student Quiz Championships
- Main article: British Student Quiz Championships
The British Student Quiz Championships (BSQC) are the largest student quizbowl tournament regularly held in the United Kingdom. First held in 1998 at Imperial College London, it ran for six editions before a hiatus from 2004-10. BSQC has been held every year since 2011 and remains the most prestigious quizbowl title in the United Kingdom. Including entries from individual Oxford colleges in early editions, the tournament has been won 14 times by Oxford, thrice by Cambridge and once each by Imperial and Manchester.
BSQC is a 3-dot difficulty tournament. The questions for BSQC are taken from other sets, most frequently the NAQT SCT, and Briticised to suit the audience. Exceptions to this include the 2021 tournament, which used that year's WORKSHOP set, and the 2023 tournament, which used the IQBT Undergraduate Championship Tournament set.
Many regular season academic tournaments have a UK mirror, including every ACF tournament apart from ACF Nationals. Typically, 4-6 closed tournaments and 1-2 open tournaments are held in the UK during each of the autumn and spring terms, usually with 10-16 teams in attendance. Relatively few quizbowl tournaments are written in the UK - notable examples of these include MKULTRA, ScotBowl, the Cambridge and Oxford Open, and British Novice. However, British players are sometimes involved in editing American tournaments, such as the 2022 ACF Winter being head-edited by Joseph Krol.
The following UK universities have entered at least one student team into a quizbowl tournament in the United Kingdom so far in the 2023-24 academic year:
- University of Birmingham
- University of Bristol
- University of Cambridge
- Durham University
- University of Edinburgh
- Imperial College London
- King's College London (KCL)
- University of Manchester
- University of Oxford
- University of Sheffield
- University of Southampton
- University of Warwick
- University of York
The following UK universities entered at least one student team into a quizbowl tournament in the United Kingdom during the 2022-23 academic year, but not yet in 2023-24:
Main article: University Challenge
University Challenge is a television programme broadcast on BBC 2 in the United Kingdom featuring teams of students from British universities and colleges. University Challenge is a knockout tournament, with 28 teams appearing in the first round and eventually being reduced to the final two. University Challenge is by far the most well-known student quiz tournament in the United Kingdom, and can serve as a source of inspiration for many players. Originally a spin-off of College Bowl, the first series aired in 1962, hosted by Bamber Gascoigne. The programme initially aired for 23 series, being cancelled after the 1987 series, but was revived by the BBC in 1994, with Jeremy Paxman replacing Gascoigne as host.
As of 2023, the record for the most wins of University Challenge is held by three institutions, with four wins each: Magdelene College Oxford, the University of Manchester and Imperial College London.
The gameplay of University Challenge is broadly similar to quizbowl, with starter questions worth 10 points answered on the buzzer, a five point penalty for incorrect interruptions and bonus questions in sets of three. However, there are a few crucial differences from quiz bowl:
- Matches are timed
- Bonuses are worth five points each
- Starter questions are much shorter than in quizbowl and not necessarily pyramidal, and may include mental arithmetic
- There is no fixed topic distribution, and there can be a wide range in difficulty
- There are two visual rounds per game, and one auditory (almost always music) round. For the visual and auditory rounds, the theme of the bonuses is related to the respective visual/auditory starter question.
Additionally, Oxford and Cambridge submit teams representing individual colleges of their university. This has caused some controversy; on the one hand, this results in teams from Oxford and Cambridge being disproportionately represented in terms of airtime. However, this also has the effect of splitting up the universities' strongest players and preventing them from dominating the competition as they have historically done in British quizbowl.
Secondary school quizbowl
Pyramidal quizbowl is currently non-existent and yet to be implemented between secondary schools in the United Kingdom. A historical exception to this was Brighton College, who competed in the 2019 and 2020 editions of British Novice and the 2020 Spring Undergraduate Novice. Additionally, a 'British Schools' team competed in the 2012 BSQC, but did not win any games.
The only form of inter-school quiz in the UK is the Schools Challenge, an unofficial spin-off of University Challenge. Schools’ Challenge, much like its university counterpart, cannot be considered quizbowl and is only differentiated from the latter by its lack of picture/music rounds, question as opposed to time-based format, 10 points instead of 5 points for bonuses (for 50-point rounds) and even shorter starter questions. It is reasonably popular, however, and 200-300 schools compete in a given year, predominantly private and selective schools.
UK Quizbowl (not to be confused with the University of Kentucky) is an organisation established in 2018 aiming to encourage and facilitate participation in quizbowl tournaments at collegiate level. UK Quizbowl is a successor to the earlier BuzzerQuiz organisation in the UK which had been established by Edmund Dickinson. UK Quizbowl organises the annual British Novice tournament as well as the British Student Quiz Championships, and also manages the bidding process for tournament mirrors. Additionally, UK Quizbowl may provide funding for newly-established university quiz societies to purchase buzzers, as well as offering travel grants to teams.
- BBC accused of ‘hiding’ Oxbridge bias on University Challenge in deepening elitism row The Guardian » Accessed 2023 March 28