Oxford's oldest student newspaper

Independent since 1920

Balliol triumph in University Challenge final against Wolfson College Cambridge

Professor Stephen Hawking presents the team with the trophy after beating Eric Monkman's Wolfson team by 190 points to 140

Jack Hunter
Jack Hunterhttps://jackrhunter.com/
Jack Hunter was the editor of Cherwell in MT17. Follow him: @_jackhunter or email [email protected]

Balliol triumphed in a thrilling final to snatch the crown as series’ champions of University Challenge 2017-18.

The team were presented with the winners’ trophy by the world renowned physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, after beating Wolfson College Cambridge by 190 points to 140.

Presenting the trophy to the Balliol team, Hawking said: “Congratulations to both teams and especially to Balliol College Oxford for becoming champions of University Challenge, a programme I have long enjoyed.”

The final had been highly anticipated, after the Wolfson captain, Eric Monkman, gained a cult following online as a result of his distinctive style of answering. The series’ finale had billed as the “heavyweight final” between Monkman and the impressive Balliol captain, Joey Goldman.

But on the night, Monkman answered several questions incorrectly, and Balliol went on to triumph in a tense match.

Wolfson took the early lead, taking points from questions on Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’, Medieval Earls of Orkney and European Peace Accords.

Balliol fought back, snatching starter-for-tens on the Greek letter Sigma and the mathematician Pointcarré. After a comeback from Wolfson, the Oxford team were able to clinch victory with answers on the philosophy of Plato and the Chinese Ming dynasty.

Following the victory, both teams travelled to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where Stephen Hawking — who is a Professorial Fellow at the college — addressed the teams and awarded Balliol with the winners’ trophy.

Hawking told the two teams: “I have said in the past that it is not clear whether intelligence has any long-term survival value. Bacteria multiply and flourish without it.

“But it is one of the most admirable qualities, especially when displayed by such young minds.”

The Balliol team — which also encompasses second-year Historian Freddy Potts, DPhil English student Jacob Lloyd, and Australian Benjamin Pope, who is reading for a DPhil in Astrophysics – won the series for the first time and ended three years of Cambridge domination.

Following their victory, Benjamin Pope told Cherwell: “We’re absolutely delighted. It’s the first ever Balliol victory and the first for Oxford in a few years after some tough finals.

“Wolfson were an incredibly good team, beating us in the quarters, and we were extremely anxious going in but trained to try and beat their fast buzzing style.

“What is a very nice coda is that they are all also lovely people, and we have met up with them in Cambridge for drinks at the Eagle. University Challenge has been a great experience and one of the best things, for me at least, has been getting to know people so full of joy in knowledge.”

Students filled the Balliol MCR to watch the match on TV…

…including the Balliol team themselves.

Monkman added some hand actions to his typically entertaining facial expression routine.

Although, some viewers’ ‘Monkmania’ obsessions may have gone a little too far.

Thankfully, Goldman had some unique facial expressions of his own.


Potts’ shirt choice proved another major point of controversy.



Congratulations have poured in for the champions.

Support student journalism

Student journalism does not come cheap. Now, more than ever, we need your support.

Check out our other content

Most Popular Articles