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Who’s in the running to replace Jeremy Paxman as host of University Challenge?

Sandi Toksvig and Fiona Bruce are both being touted as frontrunners.

University Challenge
University Challenge

Jeremy Paxman has announced he is stepping down as host of University Challenge after 28 years.

The BBC said the new presenter of the programme, which pits students in teams of four against rival universities and colleges, will be announced later this week.

Here is a look at the runners and riders who could replace him in the presenter’s chair.

– Sandi Toksvig

Women in Film and TV Awards 2019 – London
Sandi Toksvig (Ian West/PA)

The 64-year-old Danish-born broadcaster and comedian is the frontrunner to step into Paxman’s shoes, according to bookmaker Ladbrokes, which is offering her odds of 2/1.

Toksvig has ample experience hosting quiz shows after fronting QI since 2016, and became a fan favourite hosting the Great British Bake Off alongside Noel Fielding.

– Richard Osman

Graham Norton Show – London
Richard Osman (Matt Crossick/PA)

In April, Osman announced he was leaving BBC One game show Pointless after nearly 13 years to spend more time writing novels, but his departure also puts him in line to succeed Paxman.

Responding to news of Paxman’s departure, the 51-year-old tweeted: “Two hosts in 50 years. Both of them brilliant. One of my greatest claims to fame is that I introduced Jeremy Paxman to Nando’s.”

Osman could be the third host, after Bamber Gascoigne and Paxman, with Ladbrokes offering him odds of 3/1.

– Samira Ahmed

Booker Prize Awards
Samira Ahmed (David Parry/PA)

BBC journalist and broadcaster Ahmed has worked across Radio 4’s PM, The World Tonight and Front Row but fronting University Challenge would be her most high-profile role yet.

The 54-year-old revealed on Twitter that she had approached the programme “months ago” and been drafted in as its “stand-by presenter”.

Ahmed added: “I’ve loved working with the fab team who seem to love me & just narrated a UC documentary that’s going out on BBC2. And I’ve loved helping set a few questions for this series too.

“But no one from the BBC has spoken to me yet about taking over. I’ve always been happy to go through an honest fair process and be judged on my merits. I still am.”

Author Sir Philip Pullman threw his support behind her, tweeting: “Excellent idea. I’m all for it.”

– Warwick Davis

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil European Premiere – London
Warwick Davis (Ian West/PA)

The actor, best known for roles in the Star Wars and Harry Potter film series, is being given odds of 6/1 by Ladbrokes to take over as University Challenge presenter.

The 52-year-old has previous experience in the hosting chair, having presented ITV game shows Celebrity Squares and Tenable as well as appearing as a guest host on Have I Got News For You.

– Richard Ayoade

Graham Norton Show – London
Richard Ayoade (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Ladbrokes are offering odds of 8/1 for actor, comedian and presenter Ayoade.

The 45-year-old has proved to be a popular choice as host of the Bafta TV Awards since 2020 and also fronted the revived Crystal Maze series on Channel 4.

– Gyles Brandreth

Royal Ascot 2022 – Day Five – Ascot Racecourse
Gyles Brandreth (David Davies/PA)

As a broadcaster, writer and former politician, Brandreth has the breadth of knowledge required to host a show such as University Challenge.

Ladbrokes is offering the 74-year-old odds of 8/1 to land the role.

– Fiona Bruce

General Election 2019
Fiona Bruce (BBC/PA)

Bruce is favourite with bookmaker Betfair to claim the role with odds of 2/1.

The 58-year-old journalist joined the BBC as a researcher on Panorama in 1989 and over the next 14 years rose to become the first female newsreader on the BBC’s flagship News At Ten.

She currently presents Question Time and Antiques Roadshow so may struggle to find time in her schedule.

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