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UEL celebrate after triumphing on University Challenge debut

Docklands Campus

Victory over Glasgow down to teamwork - and Paddington Bear

The University of East London (UEL) enjoyed a superb debut on University Challenge by defeating the University of Glasgow in a nail-biting, first-round clash.

The UEL quartet of Jerushah Jardine, Kelly Travers, Chris Ducklin and Rachel Evans produced a brilliant team effort to triumph 150-135 and book their place in the last 16.

All four team members answered key questions during the BBC 2 quiz show – including one memorable moment when Chris correctly recalled that the bear with 'a hard stare’ was Paddington Bear. 

“It’s just amazing that Paddington Bear came up as one of the questions,” said Chris, an MSc Civil Engineering student, who showed impressive composure under pressure to dig deep into his memory.

“It goes back to early in my life when I had done something and one of my friends said she was giving me the ‘Paddington stare’. 

“It was a bit of a Slumdog Millionaire moment when you refer not necessarily to your education to provide the answer but to your experience.”

Team captain Jerushah, who is studying for a PhD in Peatland Ecology, admitted appearing in front of the TV cameras and answering questions posed by Jeremy Paxman was a nerve-racking experience but said the team grew into the experience as the match unfolded.

“We had various strategies to deal with the nerves and we really supported each other leading up to the match,” she said. “Once it started we felt pretty calm and felt we were ready.

“It was very much a team effort. I think we’ve all got our own areas where we feel more confident or less confident. Everybody played an absolutely vital role – especially Chris for knowing the Paddington Bear answer.”

Rachel, an English Literature student and the only undergraduate in the UEL line-up, said appearing on the show was an experience she would never forget.

“Once you start playing the game you kind of don’t want it to end,” she said. “It was great fun. It’s like being on a roller coaster. You get on and go through all the emotions and then you get off and want to get back on again.

“I’m really proud that we have got this far and from now on it’s all going to be for fun. We’ve just got to enjoy it as best we can.”

Kelly, a business subject librarian at UEL who is studying for a Master’s of Research, described the whole University Challenge experience as “surreal”.

“We were so nervous collectively beforehand but once we sat down in our chairs we felt a lot more comfortable. Hopefully, it won’t be quite as nerve-racking next time round and we can enjoy it a lot more because we know what to expect.

“We have no other aspirations other than to enjoy ourselves. I think it’s just lovely that we got here in the first place and that now we have another crack at it. If we can go even further then brilliant. But whatever happens now, we’ve had a great time.”

UEL is competing in University Challenge for the first time in its history after it was one of 28 teams selected for the 2016-17 series from the 130 universities who applied.

The 28 qualifiers included six Cambridge and five Oxford colleges. UEL was the only post-1992 university to make it through.

Professor John Joughin, the UEL Vice-Chancellor, complimented the team on their victory.

“The team did brilliantly just to qualify for University Challenge, so to get off to a winning start is absolutely fantastic,” he said. “Their fantastic range of knowledge and their calmness under pressure was hugely impressive.

“I would like to congratulate them on their historic achievement and also thank staff who helped with their preparations.”