Longtime Game Show Host Steps Down After Nearly Three Decades

Jeremy Paxman, the longtime host of the BBC quiz show University Challenge, is set to step down from the post after nearly three decades. Paxman, 72, will host his final episode next summer, a role he's filled since 1994. The decision comes over a year after Paxman said he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

"I've had a blast hosting this wonderful series for nearly 29 years," Paxman said in a statement Tuesday, reports BBC News. "I've been lucky enough to work with an amazing team and to meet some of the swottier brains in the country. It gives me hope for the future."

(Photo: David M. Benett/Getty Images for Debrett's and Audi)

The BBC will name Paxman's replacement later this week. Kristy Wark, who hosted a Children in Need charity special last year, is considered one of the frontrunners. BBC broadcaster Samira Ahmed also tweeted her interest in the job, noting how she served as a standby presenter for the past year. She also hosted a BBC2 documentary about the show.

"Jeremy has been our presenter, colleague, and friend for 28 years, and everyone on the University Challenge production team will miss him greatly," University Challenge executive producer PEter Gwyn said in a statement. "He'll be sorely missed too by both our audience and by the generations of students who've relished the chance to pit themselves against him in more than 1,000 matches."

Paxman is "without doubt one of the world's finest, and most formidable quizmasters," BBC Unscripted Director Kate Phillips added. "We are hugely grateful to Jeremy for his dedication to the program for an incredible 28 years, he will be much missed by us all and the show's millions of viewers," she said.

University Challenge launched in 1962 on ITV, with the late Bamber Gascoigne as host. He hosted the series for over two decades until it ended in 1987. Paxman was hired when the BBC revived the series in 1994. Before hosting the show, Paxman was a presenter on BBC Two's Newsnight, a job he held until 2014. BBC Two will air a documentary celebrating University Challenge's 60th anniversary on Aug. 29.

In May 2021, Paxman said he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. At the time, he said he was receiving "excellent" treatment and showed "mild" symptoms. "I plan to continue broadcasting and writing for as long as they'll have me," Paxman said.