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Students get the 3rd degree on Radio 4

In February this year, I found myself locking horns with my history professor in a battle of wits as part of the long-running Radio 4 show, the 3rd Degree. Personally, I am far more comfortable on the football fields of Maiden Castle or in the student bars across the hill and bailey than being quizzed about British History. Despite this fact, I found myself sat in the Mark Hillery Arts Centre, being grilled by Would I Lie To You, Mock the Week and Now Show host Steve Punt about the minutiae of history, amongst other topics, in a bid to prove that students know more than their professors. I found out about the show through my seminar leader, Dr Matthew Johnson, who mentioned that he had been asked to appear on the programme and wondered if any of us fancied taking part, I thought why not and put my name in the hat. A few days later I called the producer, David Tyler, and got a measly 4/10 on the practice questions he gave me, however, that was good enough to secure a spot on the student side.

On arrival, we sat in one of the rooms in Collingwood College before doing various sound and mic tests prior to the show beginning. It was only when my name was read out and I walked out under the bright lights of a packed Mark Hillery Arts Centre, in front of my friends and numerous other academics, that the nerves truly hit. I am used to feeling nervous during exams, or on the sporting field yet this feeling was different. I felt far more exposed than in these other two instances and tried not to overthink the fact that potentially hundreds of thousands of listeners would hear every word I uttered on national radio.

The set-up of the show was largely similar to other quiz shows, there was a general knowledge round, buzzer round and subject knowledge round. However, the show’s USP is the highbrow-lowbrow round where students and professors answer questions ranging from the Kardashians to the Kondo effect if an effort to gauge who has the best combined knowledge of popular and classical culture. This round led to questions on makeup brands, classical music, and sport, the latter of which was my sole strong point. Throughout the show, I and my fellow teammates put in a good showing for the student team and it was a tight affair right until the results were read out.

I won’t spoil the result of the show, for that you’ll have to tune in to BBC Radio 4 at 3pm on the 20th of July and thereafter on BBC Sounds. What I will say is that as my time at Durham comes to an end, I have had the chance to reflect on some of the fantastic and unexpected opportunities that university has given me, and appearing on national radio is right up there in my highlight reel. For any potential students reading this, university is what you make of it and all I can say is do plenty of things outside of your comfort zone and you will come out of Durham a far more confident and well-rounded individual than you entered.

The 3rd Degree airs on BBC Radio 4 at 3pm on Monday 20 July and on BBC Sounds after.

Oliver Scott

Hi, I am Oli, a final year History student at the College of St Hild and St Bede. In my time at Durham I have written for both student publications, the Bubble and Palatinate as well as hosting a radio show for Purple Radio. In college I am a keen member of Hild Bede’s football, poker, pool and table football societies and thoroughly enjoy college life. Check out my Twitter: mrotscott and Instagram: oli_scott
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