Published: 06 September 2019

Research findings credit popular BBC quiz show University Challenge as an indicator for graduate earnings

A recent paper addressing the debate on performance management in higher education with reference to the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) by Surrey Business School academics reveals a correlation between long-running BBC quiz show University Challenge and graduate pay.



Professor Marco Mongiello and Dr Katarzyna Zdunczyk's study investigates the relationship between institutions appearing on the popular quiz show as well as looking at the Teaching Excellent Framework (TEF) which awards UK Universities with a gold, silver or bronze rating based on criteria including student experience, graduate-level employment and drop-out rates.

Before being accepted onto the show currently hosted by Jeremy Paxman, teams must pass a general knowledge test, providing a rough indicator of the quality of students taking part. The study investigated the number of times universities had appeared on the programme between 1994 and 2019, alongside the earnings of the graduates at the age of 29. Findings revealed that there is a correlation between appearing on University Challenge and being a higher ranked university, which correlates with higher earnings.

Speaking at The British Academy of Management annual conference at Aston University, Birmingham, Dr Zdunczyk expressed their concern for parents and sixth-formers who may rely just on the measures of student experience and the outcomes of the TEF awards when choosing an institution to make “one of the most important decisions of their lives.” 

Professor Mongiello highlighted that the assumption could be made that TEF measures income of graduates and went on to say, “parents and sixth-formers who are less used to sift through data and to apply critical analysis of information might be misled by the simplistic gold, silver and bronze marks awarded to universities."

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