Starter for 10: Stars take on Paxman challenge

Actor Bernard Hill, former crime prevention minister Norman Baker and Housemartins star turned children’s author Stan Cullimore are among the figures facing Jeremy Paxman for a festive series of University Challenge.

Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill

Also taking part in the seasonal shows, which bring together graduates who have gone on to make a name for themselves, are screen star Samuel West, broadcaster and academic Jim Al-Khalili and author Philippa Gregory.

A total of 14 teams from universities and Oxbridge colleges will take part in the contest to be broadcast by BBC2 from December 20.

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Songwriter and former Rutles star Neil Innes, broadcaster Kate Adie, Mercury Prize nominated composer Thomas Ades and actor Dan Starkey - who plays Strax in Doctor Who, will also take part for their former seats of learning.

Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association and Fast Show star John Thomson are among other figures booked to appear.

Peter Gwyn, executive producer for ITV Studios - which makes the show for the BBC, said: “Christmas University Challenge is always a fantastic illustration of the strong intellectual and emotional bonds that people have with the places where they studied.

“This adds an absorbing dimension to what is set to be a fiercely fought series.”