Merton beat Newcastle to reach University Challenge final

Next Monday's final will be the fifth in a row to be contested between an Oxford college and a Cambridge college

Photo: BBC

Merton College have reached the final of University Challenge after beating Newcastle University 215-110.

They will contest Monday’s final against St John’s College, Cambridge, who thrashed the University of Edinburgh in their semi-final clash last week.

Merton have won the competition once before, when they beat a Queens’ College, Cambridge team – which included Stephen Fry – in the final of the 1980 edition.

The team have won all of their fixtures in this year’s competition, and were the highest-scoring team in the first round when they scored 285 points in their thrashing of King’s College, London.

Team captain and second-year Physics student Leonie Woodland particularly impressed during Monday night’s semi-final.

The rest of the team is made up of: Edward Thomas (History, now graduated), Alex Peplow (History, postgraduate), and Akira Wiberg (Molecular & Cellular Medicine, postgraduate).

This is the first year that Merton have had a team on the show since 2011, despite the college’s reputation for academic excellence.

This is the fifth year in a row that an Oxford college has made the final of the competition.

It is also the fifth consecutive final that will be contested between one Oxford college and one Cambridge college.

Last year’s final was won by Balliol College, who made headlines after refusing an interview with the Daily Mail, which they labelled a “fascist rag”.

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The show has also come under the spotlight in the past few years due to the lack of female students featuring in the latter stages of the competition.

Last year, St Hugh’s College was criticised for fielding an all-male team. Critics asked why a formerly-all-female college had chosen a team featuring four men.

In November, Wadham decided to enforce a gender quota for its entry into this year’s competition.