‘Old codgers’ given easier questions on University Challenge, says Jeremy Paxman

Jeremy Paxman is stepping down from presenting University Challenge, and has filmed his final show - BBC
Jeremy Paxman is stepping down from presenting University Challenge, and has filmed his final show - BBC

Jeremy Paxman has revealed University Challenge questions were sometimes made easier for older contestants.

The veteran broadcaster, who is stepping down as presenter of the popular BBC Two show after 28 years, divulged that producers gave “old codgers” an easier time.

Paxman, 72, added that he thought questions put to older contestants had become more difficult since he was in the quizmaster's chair.

"We used to make the questions easier for the old codgers, but this time they mostly seemed as tricky as the ones we put to the students,” he wrote in Saga magazine.

Responding to the claims, a BBC spokesman said: "To suggest questions are made easier is inaccurate - the specials for alumni feature a broad range of tough questions testing general and cultural knowledge, while the proportion of specialist academic material is smaller."

The comments come as the long-running quiz show was earlier this year embroiled in an age row, after viewers complained that one 63-year-old contestant from Reading was “too old”.

Paxman, who is suffering from Parkinson's disease, also said he has filmed his last ever University Challenge, and that his BBC colleagues threw him a farewell party.

He wrote: "The lucky winners and runners-up joined us for a celebratory glass afterwards, where to my great embarrassment, the production team and assorted technicians and bigwigs from the BBC thanked me for my role.

"One or two of these grandees I had even seen before."

Though retiring, Paxman reaffirmed his plans to fill his time with a roster of colourful pursuits. "I plan to join a choir, to take a postgraduate degree in understanding Renaissance art and finally to finish the wine appreciation course that I began a year ago," he wrote.

"I may even give drawing a bash."

Despite his panoply of new projects, Paxman admitted he is not adept at using computers, and ended up screaming at his screen after failing to secure England rugby tickets.

He said: "I was destined to never attend the autumn rugby international between England and South Africa.

"When I tried to buy tickets, the RFU computer demanded my password, which I have completely forgotten."

He said a message flashed-up on the screen stating: "Please use forgotten details to retrieve password", leaving him exasperated.

He added: "I screamed at the screen that I had forgotten the sodding password; 'cretin' must be on the list of unrecognised, banned words."

Paxman said he will have to be “content” watching it on TV, adding: "A lot of old age seems to consist of 'being content to'."