Amol Rajan takes University Challenge reins as fans say set is 'awful'

Softly-softly as Amol Rajan takes University Challenge reins as viewers praise his ‘tough’ questions… but some aren’t convinced by the ‘awful’ new set

  • Former host Jeremy Paxman, 73, filmed his final episode for the show last year

Amol Rajan’s very first show as University Challenge presenter has aired and while some praised his ‘tough’ questions, others bemoaned the ‘awful’ new set.

The BBC’s former media editor was quick to dish out praise to the contestants from Trinity College, Cambridge and Manchester. 

‘Hello and welcome to a new series and a new era of University Challenge,’ he said. 

‘A few things have changed… but all the important things remain the same: The format is still simple, the questions are still complicated and the teams are still terrifyingly knowledgeable.’ 

Though Rajan employed Paxman-favourite, ‘Come on,’ once or twice, he was also generous with ‘Well done’. 

A look at the BBC’s Amol Rajan presenting University Challenge for the first time 

The programme’s previous long-standing host Jeremy Paxman, 73, filmed his final episodes last year

At one point a contestant got a ‘wow!’ after a lightning response. While Paxman created an air of tension, Rajan seemed keen to put the students at ease. 

At the end of the show, he said: ‘Well done on a completely phenomenal performance… that was impressive.’ 

READ MORE: BBC gives first look at Amol Rajan and new University Challenge titles

Many fans on Twitter liked the softer approach, with one person saying ‘I thought you did an excellent job’ and another stating that they thought the show had ‘nice dynamics’.

However, it appears some viewers were not happy with the set design and the decision to remove question cards. 

One person wrote: ‘Finding this difficult to watch. Awful set. No question cards. Quizmaster reading from screen at high speed while wringing his hands.’

A second said: ‘There’s no eye contact from Amol with the contestants. It’s just you staring at a screen. May as well just be a computer reading out questions.’

Another explained that they would ‘much rather he was reading from the cards as Jeremy did’ and that the new screen feels ‘hidden’ and ‘removed’. 

A fourth added: ‘The large computer screen in front of Amol Rajan is a bit distracting. It also means he doesn’t have cards to slam down on the desk when the teams give a stupid answer.’

University Challenge fans share their anger at the new changes on Twitter

A look at the new set design of University Challenge which airs on BBC 1

Another also said: ‘The new University Challenge set is dreadful! Tackily built and painted poorly designed and boring. What were they thinking?’

This fan agreed, adding: ‘Reading from the screen makes him look totally disengaged from everything.’ 

Just after the show finished, Rajan responded to the criticism he received on Twiiter by posting: ‘Thanks so much for all the kind, thoughtful or constructive feedback about my first episode of #UniversityChallenge. I really appreciate it, and will discuss with the team.’

The programme’s previous long-standing host Jeremy Paxman, 73, filmed his final episodes last year, with the latest series of the programme ending in May.

The new role is a major promotion for Rajan as Paxman’s reign as the longest-serving current quizmaster on UK TV came to an official end.

The 39-year-old has been the BBC’s media editor since December 2016 and a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme since May 2021. He has also appeared on BBC Radio 2 and The One Show.

When his appointment was announced last year, Rajan said: ‘Being asked to host my favourite TV programme is dream-come-true territory.

‘I have watched University Challenge obsessively for years, addicted to its high standards, glorious title music, and inspirational contestants.

The fans were annoyed by the changes to the ‘hideous’ set and new question card screen

‘It’s the best possible antidote to cynicism about young people, allowing millions of us to test our wits against the best minds of a new generation, and annoy and impress our families by barking answers from the sofa.’

The broadcaster became the youngest editor of a broadsheet newspaper in Britain when he took the helm of The Independent in 2013, but now the BBC’s media editor faces an entirely new challenge as he gears up to quiz some of the smartest young minds in the country.

The BBC’s 2021/22 annual report showed he was on a salary of £325,000-£329,999 and is expected to be paid more as the host of University Challenge.

He has been married to Charlotte Faircloth since September 2013 and the couple have three children.

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