Manchester’s latest win – its fourth trophy in eight years – puts it level with Magadalen College, Oxford, which won in 1997, 1998, 2004 and 2011.
The Manchester team, which includes an economist, an astrophysicist, a linguist and a mature student studying for a PhD in pain epidemiology, triumphed by scoring 190 points to UCL’s 140.
Ironically, the team had almost failed to make it past the opening round after falling 105 points behind Lincoln College, Oxford, only make a remarkable comeback in the final few minutes.
Manchester pulled ahead of UCL in the early stages of last night’s show, taking a 100-point lead at one stage before the London team rallied towards the end.
The victory follows attention over Manchester’s highly professional approach to the quiz under the guidance of librarian Stephen Pearson, dubbed the “Alex Ferguson of University Challenge”, who handpicks the contestants.
Those selected then take part in a gruelling 10-week training programme, which includes about four or five show-length practice sessions a week.
Team members have told the university’s student paper The Mancunion that the process is enjoyable and meant they were less fazed by the televised rounds of the quiz.
The preparation also helps them to even the odds against Oxbridge colleges, who have their own intra-mural competitions before reaching the show itself, they said.
Their disciplined approach contrasts to the Victoria University of Manchester’s 1975 team, led by David Aaronovitch, now columnist at The Times, which answered every question with either “Marx”, “Trotsky” or “Lenin” in a protest against supposed elitism displayed by the show, which allows Oxbridge colleges to enter individual teams.