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‘Dons’ victorious in ‘battle of the brains’ as University hosts BBC Radio 4 quiz

Three University of Gloucestershire academics were pitched – and won – against three students in a radio recording for BBC Radio 4’s quiz show, ‘The 3rd Degree’ last night (Thursday, 21 January).

The show was recorded in front of a packed Lecture Theatre at the University’s Park campus in Cheltenham and was hosted by Steve Punt, from BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Now Show.’

The quiz show pits three undergraduates against three academics, or ‘dons’ in a general knowledge and specialist subject quiz, as well as quick-fire buzzer rounds and individual questions. The ultimate aim was to discover how the students fared against their mentors.

The academic team comprised of Dr David Webster, Acting Head of Humanities, Professor Adam Hart, Professor of Science Communication and Dr Abigail Gardner, Academic Subject Leader: Film and Television.

They faced three students who are studying the lecturers’ respective fields. Third year Religion, Philosophy and Ethics (RPE) student, Rob Alexander, first year Biosciences student Joel Connors and second year Radio student, Ryan Paxford made up the student side.

With questions ranging on topics from cricket to musical quotations and mathematic formulas to religion, it was the students who took an early lead, but ultimately it was the dons who were victorious by 32 points to 20.

Adam Hart, Professor of Science Communication at the University of Gloucestershire, said: “It was great fun…after braving University Challenge over Christmas this was far more entertaining although the questions were just as tough!”

Dr Abigail Gardner, Academic Subject Leader: Film and Television at the University of Gloucestershire, said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Knowing the answer to the Aretha Franklin question was certainly a highlight for me, because I am a Bowie fan and on Thursday I had been watching ‘Cracked Actor’ (1974) where he sits in the back of a limo and sings along to it on the radio. However, a maths question whose answer was ‘infinity’ is beyond my ancient GCSE knowledge and is, in fact, where they go to in Toy Story!”

First year Biosciences student Joel Connors, from Berkhamsted, said: “I’d say that one particular memory was receiving a question about the Krebs cycle to which my mind went blank. Another that springs to mind is conferring with my team on a maths question and coming up with two different answers, and not going with the correct one.”

Second year Radio student, Ryan Paxford, from Reading, said: “A very enjoyable and challenging experience! I’d have to say the highlight was receiving a round of applause after getting the first question correct – it eased my mind to see I did know ‘something’!”

Third year Religion, Philosophy and Ethics (RPE) student, Rob Alexander, said: “All in all I’d just like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the entire thing. It was a unique experience to take part in something like this, and I found myself laughing the way through it. On a more serious note, it was a real privilege being asked to represent the University of Gloucestershire on national radio. Steve Punt and the production team were professional, and great fun to work with. As were our lecturers. For me, it was a great insight being able to see the work and preparation that goes into setting up and recording a programme like this.”

The programme is expected to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in May at 3pm and repeated on Saturdays at 11pm. The first show will be broadcast on 9 May, and will continue until the 6th episode on the 13 June.