Ann, Elinor, James, Mike and Nicky (reserve member) comprise the brilliant Team Open for 2023. Find out about the team and how they found the experience below. You can also have a read of team member Mike's experience of being a part of the 2023 team on The Hoot.
Portrait photographs of Team Open. From left to right: Ellie Romans - Nursing, Mike Holt - Open Degree, Ann Gavaghan (captain) - Art History, and James Davidson - English Literature.
Why did you apply for University Challenge?
Ellie: "I love watching it on TV and I wanted to see how well I could do"
Mike: "I'd always watched the programme, playing along at home and kicked myself for not trying to join the university team when I studied my undergraduate degree after school - at the time it didn't even occur to me. After deciding to enrol with the OU to complete some further study, I saw a post about it on StudentHome and decided to throw my hat into the ring!"
Ann: "I really like quizzing and decided that UC would be a good challenge. But as someone who grew up outside of the UK, I didn't expect that I'd have enough British knowledge to make the team. It was an unexpected surprise!"
James: "I had always wanted to appear on University Challenge, it has been one of my favourite programmes since I was about 12 and I didn't understand any of the questions. I had applied to be on the team for my first 2 years and made the team the first time but didn't make it onto the programme. I was especially keen to do it this year as it was my final year at the University so could have been my last chance which was very motivational."
"I was especially keen to do it this year as it was my final year at the University so could have been my last chance which was very motivational." - James
When did you first get into quizzing?
Ellie: "I used to love watching Going for Gold when I was a kid!"
Mike: "Like a lot of people, through the classic pub quiz - I'd never taken part in any other competitive quizzing. I guess University Challenge is really jumping in at the deep end."
Ann: "I am from the United States, and did some trivia there, appearing on Jeopardy!, but I didn't get seriously into quizzing until after I moved to the UK and joined the Quiz League of London. I now play in four online leagues, three daily quiz competitions, and continue to show up on Tuesday nights for the in-person matches of the Quiz League of London."
James: "I first got into quizzing when I was younger and loved watching quiz programmes with my dad and always loved how impressed he was when I got answers correct. I first started taking it more seriously about a year ago when I appeared on Mastermind and discovered that it was something I really enjoyed and put more effort into."
Can you tell us about a specialist area of yours that you love learning about and being quizzed on?
Ellie: "Naval history, I'm really a historian disguised as a nursing student."
Mike: "I've always loved studying the sciences and reading around them though part of the fun of quizzing is when you suddenly come up with an answer despite not being quite sure how you know it."
Ann: "I really enjoy feminist history, whether it's looking at women politicians or artists who aren't celebrated as they should be."
James: "Film would probably be my specialist area and I always loved when these would come up during practice. I do usually enjoy Literature questions as well but because of my degree I feel a bit of pressure to always get these correct."
What was your favourite moment of the University Challenge process?
Ellie: "Walking on to the set for the first time. It was just an amazing feeling - when I realised that we really were going to be on University Challenge."
Mike: "I think like most contestants, the favourite moment has to be when you get your first correct starter question - an instantaneous rush. It was also great to meet the contestants from other universities who were all equally nervous and excited to be there."
Ann: "The best part was the team. UC is a big place and while I know people in my course, the team was the first chance I had to connect with others going through the UC process. Our distance was challenging when preparing, but we had a great time in our practice matches and on the show. Everyone was friendly and had the right attitude."
"The best part was the team" - Ann
James: "I think it would probably be when we got the told that we would actually be going on the TV. I was at work when I was told and it was such a surreal mix of excitement and apprehension. I couldn't wait to get onto the show but was still nervous that I would embarrass myself and my team when I got there."
Team Open with presenter Amol Rajan.
Was the experience as you expected?
Ellie: "I didn't realise how emotionally intense it was going to be. And I'm sure the questions used to be easier."
Mike: "Having never done anything like this before, I didn't really know what to expect. The one thing that surprised me was how quickly the round seemed to go once we got started - it was over in a flash."
Ann: "No! I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. There's always the fear of getting something wrong on national television that you should know, but it's outweighed by the joy of getting questions about things you love."
James: "I wasn't sure what I was really expecting from the experience especially as it was a new host so didn't know if show would be different once we got there. Once we got to the studio everyone was lovely and made it such an enjoyable and memorable experience."
"Once we got to the studio everyone was lovely and made it such an enjoyable and memorable experience." - James
How did you practice for the show?
Ellie: "I read chemistry and physics textbooks on my lunch break. We practiced as a team on zoom. I also read up on ancient history and did some online quizzes"
Mike: "We met weekly on Zoom as a team to practice, sometimes with one member acting as quiz master and a few times playing along to an old episode. Our team captain Ann was great at organising this and it was actually a lot of fun."
Any tips or advice for fellow OU students who are thinking about applying for University Challenge?
Ellie: "Go for it! It's great fun and you might be surprised by how far you get."
Mike: "Do it! Getting to be part of such an iconic programme is a real privilege and a once in a lifetime opportunity. You've got nothing to lose by giving it a go and applying."
"Getting to be part of such an iconic programme is a real privilege and a once in a lifetime opportunity" - Mike
Ann: "Do it! I talked myself into it and I'm so glad I did. The experience is truly once in a lifetime. Going through it also made me a better quizzer."
James: "I would say just remember it is supposed to be a fun experience so don't put too much pressure on yourself to get onto the team or do well. I learned a lot from the years when I didn't get onto the show or the team and it meant I was able to get there this time."
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Ellie: "I'd like to thank my family and my colleagues for all their support, I couldn't have done it without them. And of course my teammates - what an amazing time we had."
"What an amazing time we had" - Ellie
Mike: "Being part of such a brilliant team was excellent - everyone bringing different specialist knowledge and experience to the group."
Ann: "Even if a person is uncomfortable trying out for UC this year, there are plenty of ways to get into quizzing - like the Quiz League of London, Online Quiz League, or Learned League. No experience is required, no baseline level of knowledge is needed, and it can help build your confidence to the point where you are comfortable trying out for shows. I also want people to know that quizzing is a hobby for everyone, even people who may not look or act like the stereotypical quizzer."
"Quizzing is a hobby for everyone" - Ann