University Challenge ‘controversy’ explained as BBC respond

The BBC has responded to controversy surrounding the latest episode of University Challenge.

Monday’s episode of the long-running quiz show saw Christ Church College, Oxford and Emmanuel College, Cambridge compete for a place in the quarter-finals.

But a social media storm erupted shortly after the episode aired over an octopus mascot and the colour of one contestant’s outfit.

University Challenge Oxford team

Some branded the octopus ‘anti-Semitic’ and argued the contestant appeared to be wearing the colours of the Palestinian flag.

One on X (previously Twitter) accused: “Anti-Semitic trope proudly on display here. Anti-Semitic propaganda during 19th/20th century often used octopus imagery to represent Jewish influence & control. I struggle to believe in the current climate this is a coincidence. BBC has serious questions to answer”

In response to the conspiracy theories shared on social media, the BBC have spoken out.

A BBC spokesperson said in a statement: “We are aware of a number of inaccurate claims being made online in relation to last night’s episode of University Challenge and we utterly condemn the abuse that has been posted and shared.

“For the avoidance of doubt, this episode was filmed in March. The mascot is one of many chosen by the team during the course of the series and is one of their favourite animals.

“The jacket worn by one of the contestants was navy blue, orange, pink and green, bought from a High Street retailer. It has no connection to any flag.”

Many on social media found the claims of controversy bizarre.

One wrote: “Wow! Some of you are *really desperate* to single out and bully a Muslim woman and accuse of her of bigotry for wearing a Zara jacket while sitting near a team mascot cuddly octopus on University Challenge.”

University Challenge airs on BBC Two and iPlayer on Monday nights at 8:30PM, hosted by Amol Rajan.

Since its inception in the 1960s, this show has featured teams of four from various universities nationwide, competing against each other in a general knowledge knockout tournament.