Suffolk man wins University Challenge

IT is the toughest quiz show on television with former contestants including legendary brain box Stephen Fry, author Sebastian Faulks and television personality Clive James.

Danielle Nuttall

IT is the toughest quiz show on television with former contestants including legendary brain box Stephen Fry, author Sebastian Faulks and television personality Clive James.

But a former Woodbridge schoolboy has managed to go one better than his celebrity predecessors - after taking home the coveted BBC University Challenge trophy.

Charles Markland, of Cretingham, near Framlingham, beat scores of the nation's brightest sparks to win the famous quiz contest, presented by notoriously fierce broadcaster Jeremy Paxman.

The 22-year-old, who is in the first year of a doctorate in chemistry at Christchurch College, Oxford, was part of a team of four students who stormed through the rounds on Britain's most challenging competition.

The team, which also included Max Kaufman, Alex Bubb and Susanna Darby, beat the University of Sheffield by 50 points in the final, televised last night.

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After beating strong contenders, the University of Manchester, in the semi-final, the team knew victory was just around the corner.

“The scores in the semi-final and the final were identical - 220-170 in our favour,” said Mr Markland.

“But I thought the second run against Nottingham was the hardest.”

It is not the first time the student has shown his intellectual agility at national level.

Mr Markland has previously got to the final of the National Schools' Quiz Challenge while a pupil at Woodbridge School and often takes part in pub quizzes.

He said chemistry was usually his strongest subject but it ironically stumped him during the programme.

“I embarrassed myself in chemistry and managed to answer the physics questions!” he said.

“In one episode we had a music round on Andrew Lloyd Webber and we had to try and cope with that. “Both Max and I are classical music fans and we were begging for a few questions on it but sadly not.

“My knowledge of pre-1990s pop music is pretty dreadful. I'm not great on art but I like to think I make sensible guesses.”

Mr Markland, who managed to answer numerous questions during the rounds, said he gave up trying to revise for the competition very early on.

“The first time I went to Waterstones and bought a big book of pub quiz questions. But all the stuff which came up in the programme was stuff I already knew,” he said.

“After the first time I thought there was no point in trying to revise. There was such a wide spread - they ask from every age and subject - it becomes almost impossible.”

A total of 28 universities compete in the televised stages of the competition.

But students must go through a pretty intensive selection process by their university before making the final team.

Mr Markland said he had twice previously tried to secure a spot on the team and it was a case of third time lucky.

Asked where the brains came from in his family, Mr Markland diplomatically answered “both his parents”.

“People who know me know that I keep spouting useless information,” he said.

But Mr Markland's parents, Lynda, a linguist, and mathematician, Peter, are reluctant to take the credit.

“We keep saying: 'How on earth did he know that?' If we can do the village quiz we're happy,” said Mrs Markland.

“We were proud of Charles.”

The trophy was presented by former Suffolk resident, television presenter Joan Bakewell.

Mr Markland said BBC Two's Newsnight presenter Paxman was much nicer than his reputation gave him credit.

“To contestants he's surprisingly nice. He asks questions about you and says congratulations at the end of a round,” he added.

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