A campaigner has asked the BBC to defend what he called an “elitist” format of University Challenge in a public debate.
Frank Coffield, an emeritus professor of education, has campaigned for fairer entry rules that would see Oxford and Cambridge confined to one team – in line with all other universities.
He has alleged the current format of the show is rigged in favour of Oxbridge colleges, which he says breaches the BBC’s impartiality rules.
In a letter to the BBC director-general Tim Davie and the show’s presenter Amol Rajan, who both attended Cambridge colleges, Mr Coffield asked the pair to debate the issues at Durham University, where he used to teach, The Guardian reported.
Mr Coffield claimed the show’s Oxbridge bias was highlighted by its Christmas specials, which see alumni compete on behalf of their former universities.
He found since they began in 2011, Oxbridge colleges have won nine of the 12 Christmas specials and a quarter of the 168 teams that have taken part in them have been Oxford or Cambridge colleges.
He urged the BBC to disclose the full details of all entrants in the 61-year history of the show, which ran on ITV from 1962-1987 before moving to the BBC in 1994.
In his letters to Mr Davie and Mr Rajan, he wrote: “What was the BBC so determined to conceal? The fact that it continues to rig this quiz in favour of the already privileged.
“The senior executives in charge of the show ignore criticisms and continue to push their unjustifiable favouritism of the Oxbridge colleges they themselves attended.”
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Mr Coffield said the alleged bias was “symptomatic of how this country is run – in the interests of a small elite who fight to preserve their unearned advantages for their colleges and their children”.
He added: “Why do you allow this programme to tarnish the BBC’s reputation for impartiality? Is it because you are part of the elite, using your position to perpetuate these privileges?”
A BBC spokesperson said: “We totally reject this – over the last 12 years the University Challenge Alumni series has set out to reflect the UK’s graduate population and has represented a wide range of universities in each series.”
Source : Sky News