British Indian journalist Amol Rajan is the frontrunner to succeed Jeremy Paxman as University Challenge host, The Telegraph reported.
Rajan has been the BBC‘s Media Editor since December 2016 and a presenter on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 since 2021.
Paxman, 72, who is leaving the quiz show after 28 years, revealed in May 2021 that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Earlier, Paxman was the chief presenter of Newsnight for 25 years until stepping down in 2014.
According to the veteran journalist, the show enabled him to meet ‘the swottier brains’ in the UK. He added that he had ‘had a blast’ as the show’s presenter.
Paxman was the longest-serving quizmaster on British television on a programme that first aired in 1962. Bamber Gascoigne, University Challenge’s only other presenter, died in February, The Telegraph report added. Gascoigne hosted the original series between 1962 and 1987.
The BBC said that Paxman would be sorely missed by generations of students. The replacement will be announced later this week, it is learnt.
Rajan once appeared on a celebrity edition of University Challenge as captain of a University of Cambridge Downing College alumni team.
There were reports that Fiona Bruce will replace Paxman, however, sources told The Telegraph that Rajan has been picked.
BBC broadcaster Samira Ahmed posted on Twitter her disappointment at not being given the job.
She revealed on Twitter that she had “rehearsed” the role, spent time as a “standby” for Paxman and even had the “encouragement” of Gascoigne prior to his death.
Paxman has hosted the quiz since 1994, when it was revived by the BBC after the original series ended in 1987. He will film his final episode this autumn.
His final series will air on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer from Aug 29 through to next year.
“I’ve had a blast hosting this wonderful series for nearly 29 years. 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,” Paxman was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
Kate Phillips, the BBC’s director of Unscripted, said that Jeremy ‘will be much missed by us all and the show’s millions of viewers’.
Peter Gwyn, the executive producer of University Challenge, said: “Jeremy has been our presenter, colleague and friend for 28 years, and everyone on the University Challenge production team will miss him greatly.
“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 a thousand matches.”
Paxman will reflect on his diagnosis and meet those at the forefront of research in an ITV documentary, reports said.
Kolkata-born Rajan is a cricket enthusiast and plays for the Authors XI. His first book, Twirlymen, the Unlikely History of Cricket’s Greatest Spin Bowlers, was published by Random House in 2011.
In September 2013, he married the academic Charlotte Faircloth, in Cambridge. They live in London and have three children.