In a controversial move the BBC has signalled the introduction of participation fees for future panelists wishing to represent their colleges on University Challenge. It’s understood that the change will be staring with the 2018/19 season later this year.

A spokesman for the show, much loved by brain-boxes and geeks, told reporters earlier: ‘We have thought long and hard about this, particularly after Nick Clegg shamelessly sold his soul to gain a ministerial position with the Tories, when spinelessly he rolled over and thus green-lighted the way for tuition fees to be hiked up significantly.’

‘As producers we had always hoped to leave this great national institution unsullied by brazen selfishness and rampant opportunism. Sadly however in this Daily Mail-led reactionary climate seeking to destroy The BBC by a death of a thousand cuts, it sees us left with no option. We simply have to implement fees or risk the show moving to Channel Five, or possibly suffering an even worse fate and ending up on ITV 2!’

Stephen Fry has taken to Twitter decrying the move and the Fabian Society is said to be livid. Darren Brockhurst, Emeritus Professor of Sports Centre Management at UCL said: ‘This will very quickly see the contest become solely dominated by wealthy Oxbridge Colleges, and mark my words, the days of Queen’s University Belfast and The University of Leeds taking part in the early rounds are sadly numbered.’

A figure has not yet been agreed but it is rumoured to be in the region of £500 for a first round appearance, rising all the way to £3500 for finalists.

The show’s current quiz master, Jeremy Paxman, told The One Show: “I’m really very sad to see this move, and, yes I do indeed agree that it smacks of pulling up the ladder, but if it secures my very acceptable salary in the future then quite frankly I’m all for it.’