The 3rd Degree (radio series)

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The 3rd Degree
Other names The Third Degree
Genre Quiz show
Running time 28 minutes
Country of origin United Kingdom
Language(s) English
Home station BBC Radio 4
Hosted by Steve Punt
Created by David Tyler
Directed by David Tyler
Produced by David Tyler
Original release 21 February 2011 – present
No. of series 7
No. of episodes 42
Opening theme "Ruby" by Kaiser Chiefs[1]
Website BBC homepage

The 3rd Degree (sometimes written as The Third Degree) is a British quiz show broadcast on BBC Radio 4, hosted by comedian Steve Punt and made by Pozzitive Productions. The series is recorded at different universities around the country, the contestants all coming from the university in which the recording takes place. One teams consists of three students and the other of three lecturers (known as the "Dons") who teach the subjects the students are studying.


The show consists of several rounds which are as follows:[2]

  • The General Knowledge Round: Each team are asked general knowledge questions in turn, which they are allowed to confer on. If they get the question right, they score two points. If they get it wrong the question is thrown over to the other team for a bonus point.
  • Specialist Subject Round 1: The first of three specialist subject rounds. The rounds are between one student and the Don who teaches them. The questions are on the academic subject that the student is learning and the Don teaches. The scoring is asymmetric in favour of the student. Correct answers score two points. If a Don gets a question wrong it can go over for a bonus point to the student, but if a student gets a question wrong no bonus is given.
  • The List Round: Each team is given 30 seconds to list as many things in a given category (time begins after Punt finishes reading the question). One point is given for each correct answer (indicated by a "ping" sound effect). If eight correct answers are given in the time limit, a ninth bonus point is awarded.
  • Specialist Subject Round 2: The second specialist subject round. Follows the same format as the first.
  • Highbrow Lowbrow: Referred to by some as the show's "Signature round",[2] here each contestant is given a short clue to a question and are then asked if they want to answer a highbrow or a lowbrow question based on the clue. The students score two points if they get the highbrow question right or one point if they get the lowbrow question right. For the Dons, it is the other way around (one point for highbrow, two points for lowbrow). When the contestant chooses the question, their academic rival has to answer the question not chosen.
  • Specialist Subject Round 3: The third and final specialist subject round. Follows the same format as the others.
  • The Quick Fire Round: The final general knowledge "bell and buzzer" round (the students have a bell, the Dons have a buzzer). Correct answers score one point. Incorrect interruptions lose one point. Questions are not thrown over to the other side.


Reviews for The 3rd Degree have been mixed. Iain Weaver from UKGameshows gave a positive review of the series, saying: "We're not tremendously upset by the way the teachers went through the series unbeaten, they are university lecturers, and university lecturers are meant to know an awful lot. We also liked the way Steve Punt kept the programme flowing at a decent pace, adding jokes and asides, and keeping proceedings moving along most enjoyably. He's probably helped by the audience at the student bar, who have doubtlessly taken this opportunity to have their one pint of something for the week. If there's one slight criticism we'd make, it's that the Highbrow Lowbrow round is a bit of a block in the middle of the programme. We might prefer to split the round into two parts, perhaps shifting the first immediately before the lists round. That would add a little bit more variety, and make the programme a little less imposing. That's just a minor criticism: most of what The 3rd Degree does, it does well. Given that it replaced the venerable Quote... Unquote, it didn't have a high bar, but we can see this programme running for a fair few years."[2]

Elisabeth Mahoney was negative in her summing up writing in The Guardian: "There are lots of rather lukewarm, predictable asides like this between rounds that rarely move beyond mildly distracting. You can imagine that on paper, this looked like a really swell idea: the reality on-air lacks pace and excitement, and you know the dons will win. It's a bit foggy in places, too, with a mysterious regime of bonus points available at some times and not others, and it can be hard to remember, by first name, who is on which side of the academic divide... There are a few amusing moments like this, but ultimately it's all a bit soulless and you don't really care who wins.[3]

Derek Smith in The Stage gave a mixed review saying the show was: "A kind of dysfunctional radio version of University Challenge. My question would be - what's the point? Admittedly, it's quite lively, but only vaguely funny, and hardly dynamic. Third-class degree, more like."[4]


In 2015 The 3rd Degree was nominated for the Rose d'Or in the "Radio Game Show" category.[5]


Series 1[edit]

Episode Date broadcast University Specialist subjects Students score Dons score
1 21 February 2011 University of Southampton 20 25
2 28 February 2011 Durham University 20 45
3 7 March 2011 University of Stirling 23 23
4 14 March 2011 University of Reading 32 40
5 21 March 2011 University of Salford 18 35
6 28 March 2011 Middlesex University 27 37

Series 2[edit]

Episode Date broadcast University Specialist subjects Students score Dons score
7 12 March 2012 University of East Anglia 19 30
8 19 March 2012 Swansea University 22 34
9 26 March 2012 University of Warwick 37 26
10 2 April 2012 University of Sussex 25 35
11 9 April 2012 Queen Mary, University of London 22 35
12 16 April 2012 University of Northampton 25 35

Series 3[edit]

Episode Date broadcast University Specialist subjects Students score Dons score
13 25 March 2013 Anglia Ruskin University 28 35
14 1 April 2013 University of Exeter 25 22
15 8 April 2013 University of Edinburgh
  • Biosciences
  • History of art
  • International relations
29 36
16 15 April 2013 University of Leicester 33 38
17 22 April 2013 Bath Spa University 22 24
18 29 April 2013 University of Leeds 29 27

Series 4[edit]

Episode Date broadcast University Specialist subjects Students score Dons score
19 7 April 2014 University of Bristol 30 40
20 14 April 2014 University of Kent 32 31
21 21 April 2014 University of Bedfordshire 23 31
22 28 April 2014 Aberystwyth University 19 29
23 5 May 2014 University of Nottingham 20 17
24 12 May 2014 University of Birmingham 34 25

Series 5[edit]

Episode Date broadcast University Specialist subjects Students score Dons score
1 27 April 2015 Cardiff University 31 29
2 9 May 2015[fn 1] University of Manchester
  • Biology
  • American studies
  • Medicine
22 36
3 11 May 2015 University of Essex 31 41
4 18 May 2015 De Montfort University 30 28
5 25 May 2015 Aston University
  • Law
  • Psychology
  • Computer science
22 38
6 1 June 2015 University of Surrey 25 35

Series 6[edit]

Episode Date broadcast University Specialist subjects Students score Dons score
1 9 May 2016 University of York
  • History of art
  • Theatre, film and television studies
  • Physics
22 30
2 16 May 2016 University of Gloucestershire 20 32
3 23 May 2016 University of Chester 27 26
4 30 May 2016 University of Glasgow
  • Earth sciences
  • Medicine
  • Astrophysics and cosmology
22 33
5 6 June 2016 Birmingham City University 25 29
6 13 June 2016 University of Bath
  • Biology
  • Politics
  • Maths
17 30

Series 7[edit]

Episode Date broadcast University Specialist subjects Students score Dons score
1 22 May 2017 University of Roehampton 22 33
2 29 May 2017 Queen's University Belfast
3 5 June 2017 University of Derby
4 12 June 2017
5 19 June 2017
6 26 June 2017

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Episode delayed due to coverage of the 2015 BBC Food and Farming Awards.


  1. ^ "The 3rd Degree". UKGameshows. Retrieved 22 March 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Weaver, Iain (8 May 2011). "Weaver's Week 2011-05-08". UKGameshows. Retrieved 22 March 2012. 
  3. ^ Mahoney, Elisabeth (1 March 2011). "Radio review: The Third Degree". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Smith, Derek (18 February 2011). "Radio review - light programme". The Stage. Retrieved 22 March 2012. 
  5. ^ "Rose d'Or nominees announced with more master class speakers". Rose d'Or. 9 November 2015. Retrieved 10 November 2015. 

External links[edit]