Universities

Meet the debaters taking part

In 2013 the Big Animal Research Debate had an amazing response from UK debating societies with almost every one taking part. We are hoping for a similar response for the debates in 2017.

Click the name of a university in the list below to view its debating society's profile, or scroll down to view all of the societies. As debates are confirmed for 2017 they will be added.

2013 Participants

England

London: Imperial CollegeKings College London, Lincoln's InnLondon School of Economics, New College of the HumanitiesUniversity College LondonUniversity of Westminster  

Home counties: University of Cambridge, University of EssexUniversity of Kent, University of Oxford

South and South West of England: University of Southampton

The Midlands: Staffordshire UniversityUniversity of NottinghamUniversity of Warwick

The North of England: University of Durham, University of HullUniversity of LiverpoolNewcastle UniversityUniversity of Manchester, University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University

Northern Ireland

Belfast: Queen's University Belfast Literary and Scientific Society

Wales

West coast: Aberystwyth University

South coast: Swansea University

Scotland

Lowlands: University of Dundee, University of GlasgowUniversity of Stirling

Republic of Ireland

Dublin: Trinity College Dublin Historical SocietyTrinity College Dublin Philosophical Society

International

United States of America: James Madison University

The Manchester Debating Union mdu-tree_logo_mod1_(1)_1.png

  • University: The University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, The Royal Northern College of Music, the University of Salford
  • Location: Manchester
  • University founded: 1824 (UMIST), 1851 (Victoria University of Manchester), 2004 (University of Manchester)

Established in 1996 the MDU is an awarding winning student society based in the University of Manchester. The MDU organises the participation of Manchester students in inter-varsity debating competitions, arranges public debates and hosts debating competitions at the international, inter-varsity and school levels.

In August 2013 MDU will play host to the European Universities Debating Championships, Europe’s largest student debating competition. A total of 700 individuals from 100 higher education institutions are set to take part in the tournament.

The MDU accepts members from all of Manchester’s institutions of higher education, including the Royal Northern College of Music and the University of Salford.

Nottingham Debating Union 

ndulogo.jpg

  • University: The University of Nottingham
  • Location: Nottingham
  • University founded: 1798

The Nottingham Debating Union offers opportunities for anyone with an interest in debating to cultivate a talent for public speaking and compete in national and international competitions. The Union is committed to raising the profile and standard of debating within Nottingham University and throughout the Midlands.

Over the last year NDU speakers have reached the Semi-finals or Finals of the Kent IV, the UCL IV, the Leeds Open, the Swansea Open, the Warwick IV, the York IV, the Trent IV and the Bristol IV. NDU’spast accomplishments include reaching the World University Debating Championship Quarter-Finals in 2008-2009 and 2012-2013 and reaching the European Universities Debating Championship Semi-Finals in 2008-2009 and Quarter-Finals in 2009-2010. The Nottingham Debating Union also organise regular public debates to allow the students of Nottingham University to partake in the debating culture and be exposed to experts of various fields. 

The Kings College London Debating Society

  • University: Kings College London
  • Location: London
  • University founded: 1829

Kings College London is one of the UK capital's best known universities, with an international reputation for conducting ground breaking research in the fields of science, medicine and the humanities. KCL’s debating society lives up to the university’s reputation and is one of London’s most active.

KCL Debating Society organises regular public debates, working in partnership with other student societies active in the university. KCL’s debates are argued by panels made up of both students and guest speakers.

A former KCL debater has been appointed as Chief Adjudicator of the 2015 World Universities Debating Championships and KCL teams have reached the break rounds and final rounds of the European Universities Debating Championships.

guu_crest.jpgGlasgow University Union

  • University: University of Glasgow
  • Location: Glasgow
  • University founded: 1451

The history of debating at Glasgow University is inextricably linked to the history of Glasgow University Union, a legacy that has never faltered since its inception in 1885.

A strong culture of debating has led the GUU to five wins (more than any other institution) at the World Debating Championships, a tournament that it was instrumental in founding. Inter-varsity debating is an extremely important part of GUU debates, with teams sent all over Britain to participate in various championships.

The one thing that really sets debating at the GUU apart is the tradition of Parliamentary Debates. Five clubs take turns to be in ‘Government’ and present a bill to the chamber.

A strong past means that Glasgow University Union debating can constantly build towards its future. This year, not only will Glasgow’s ‘Ancients’ competition strive to elevate the level of debate on offer in Scotland as ever, but will be joined by a new competition, Glasgow Women’s Open, devoted to the promotion of women in debating and the development of strong female speakers and judges.

Sheffield Debating Society

  • University: University of Sheffield
  • Location: Sheffield
  • University founded: 1828

Sheffield Debating were established ten years ago to both foster discussion and debate on campus and to train students to compete in inter-varsity competitions across the country. In recent years they have hosted debates every week in the Students Union to large audiences and had significant success in numerous debating competitions.

The University of Oxford Union Society

  • University: University of Oxford
  • Location: Oxford
  • University founded: 1096

The Union is the world's most prestigious debating society, with an unparalleled reputation for bringing international guests and speakers to Oxford. It has been established for 189 years, aiming to promote debate and discussion not just in Oxford University, but across the globe.

Unlike other student unions, the Oxford Union holds no political views. Instead, the Union is a forum for debate and the discussion of controversial issues. The Oxford Union has been at the centre of controversial debate throughout its history. As the most prominent debating platform outside Westminster it is no surprise debates have been unrivalled in their quality and impact.

The University College London Union Debating Society 

  • University: University College London
  • Location: London
  • University founded: 1826

Founded in 1828 the University College London Union Debating Society is UCL’s oldest student society.

The society maintains a strong tradition of public debate and discussion at UCL. Speaking spots at its Monday night public debates are highly sought after and it is closely involved in the UK’s competitive debating circuit. The UCL President’s Cup traditionally marks the start of England's competitive debate season and has given many successful debaters their first taste of tournament speaking.

A passion for debating, freedom of speech and critical thought lies at the heart of the UCLU Debating Society, and it welcomes students of all ability levels of take part.

The Hull University Debating Society 

  • University: The University of London
  • Location: London
  • University founded: 1836

The University of Hull’s debating society is one of the most active on the UK’s northern debating circuit. It organises training in public speaking, critical thinking and competitive debate for a large membership base, and also stages public debates and a wide range of topics.

Hull has sent teams to three previous European Universities Debating Championships and have also attended every Northern and Midlands Debating Alliance competition for the last two years. The society plans to maintain its record during the next year, while also attending more Scottish and London-based tournaments.

Renowned for its inclusive, close-knit atmosphere, Hull’s debating society also runs one of the north of England’s best attended open debating events, The Hull Open. 

Queen's University Belfast

  • University: Queen's University Belfast
  • Location: Belfast
  • University founded: 1849

The Literary and Scientific Society of Queen’s University Belfast, known as “The Literific,” is the fifth-oldest university debating society in the United Kingdom, and one of the most uncompromising fora for debate in Northern Ireland.

The Literific strives to band together students from all disciplines to share knowledge and explore longstanding and contemporary controversies through structured debate.

But the Literific believes that ultimately debate is noble – about valuing audiences and intellectual opponents. Although Northern Irish and cross-border policy brings the raw meat for many a Literific discussion, Society interests are cross-disciplinary, and a term’s debates will be both “Literary” and “Scientific.”

The Literific President and Council are determined to start and keep friendships with fellow student societies from across the UK, the Republic of Ireland and Europe, and would be honoured to visit or receive them for competitions, talks, or a cup of tea. For more information, please visit http://literific.org/.

The University of Southampton Debating Society

  • University: The University of Southampton
  • Location: Southampton
  • University founded: 1862

The University of Southampton Debating Society was set up in 1952, the same year the University of Southampton was founded. The Society has operated ever since, hosting debates every Thursday on a variety of topics. Its public debates are followed by a discussion forum with debate's the audience and its speakers.

Southamption also hosts an annual inter-varsity or open debate tournament which features teams from across the UK circuit. Several current Members of Parliament including Labour’s Alan Whitehead and John Denham, and the Conservatives’ International Development Secretary Justine Greening and MP Gerald Howarth are alumni of the University.

The University Westminster Debating Society

  • University: The University of Westminster
  • Location: London
  • University founded: 1838
The University of Westminster Debating society aims to encourage its members to think dynamically about current affairs, engaging with debates in both the public and competitive arenas. The society encourages University of Westminster students to develop a public voice and pride the wide variety of views and opinions that exists on the university's campus. 

During the last academic year the Westminster debating society worked to organise fortnightly training sessions with the University of London Union Debating Society. This enabled the society to accelerate the development of its debates. Through this new partnership, Westminster's members have been given the chance to participate and compete in a range of national inter-varsity debating competitions.

The debating society also helped to establish and host the inaugural 'Westminster-ULU Inter-Varsity Debate' earlier this year. With over 50 teams taking part, the society hopes to grow and develop the event during the next academic year.

Liverpool Debating Society 

  • University: The University of Liverpool
  • Location: Liverpool
  • University founded: 1881

Liverpool Debating was formed in 2009 at the University of Liverpool. Since then, they’ve gone on from strength to strength, becoming the Liverpool Debating Union in 2013, incorporating the other universities in Liverpool. 

Liverpool's competitive highlights include winning the NAMDA Novice Cup in 2010, as well as breaking to the NAMDA Novice semi-finals in 2012 and the Leeds Open Novice Final in 2013.

Staffordshire University Politics and Current Affairs Society 

  • University: Staffordshire University
  • Location: Stoke-on-Trent
  • University founded: 1971

Staffordshire University's Politics and Current Affairs Society was formed just over two years ago, with the aim of creating an environment in which people can debate and discuss the topics that affect them via quickly meetings and termly social events.

The Politics and Current Affairs society aims to work with other societies around Staffordshire University to host debates that cover the interests of a broad range of students. The society will be hosting its Big Animal Research Debate in cooperations with the Staffordshire University Biology Society.

Newcastle Debating Society 

  • University: Newcastle University
  • Location: Newcastle
  • University founded: 1963

The Newcastle Debating Society is home to debaters studying at Newcastle University, which is part of the Russell group. The Newcastle Debating Society has its roots in the Durham Union Society and became an independent entity when Durham and Newcastle University split in 1963.

The Newcastle Debating Society is active on both the Scottish and English competitive debating circuits. Its students and alumni have reached the final rounds of the European and World University Debating Championships as both judges and speakers. Newcastle hosted the 2009 European Debating Championships, which saw 500 debaters from 100 institutions competing in the city.

More recently, the Society has focused on outreach programs, delivering public speaking training to a local veterans’ charity, two local schools and the Womens’ Institute.

The Cambridge Union Society 

  • University: The University of Cambridge
  • Location: Cambridge
  • University founded: 1209

The Cambridge Union Society, founded in 1815, is more than just a private members club. Whilst we are proud of our status as one of the world's oldest and most prestigious student debating societies, we are also proud to be a registered charity. Our historic defence of free speech and ongoing belief in participatory democracy commits our members to promoting these values in the wider community - particularly in schools, universities and in local communities throughout UK and abroad. We therefore organise and participate in domestic and international debating events on a regular basis.

Our debates serve to engage and to challenge the presumptions and prejudices of a wide range of ideas, opinions and beliefs through the use of rational argument and credible intellectual exchange, and our speaker events provide a forum for young people to challenge and learn from public figures from a variety of backgrounds. We are committed to making our society as inclusive as possible: we open many events to the wider public, and our officers and members come from a diverse selection of social, political and racial backgrounds. More information about the Cambridge Union Society and the events that the Union hosts can be found at http://www.cus.org/.

Swansea University Debating Society 

  • University: Swansea University
  • Location: Swansea
  • University founded: 1920

Swansea University Debating Society focuses on debating in the British Parliamentary format. The debates it organises range cover not only key social and political issues in current affairs, but also pop culture and philosophy. Meetings are twice weekly and the society frequently travels to Welsh and English debating competitions. Swansea Debating Society aims to improve its members' speaking and reasoning skills, while ensuring that they also have fun, make friends and see a different side to student life.

The University of Kent Debating Society 

  • University: The University of Kent
  • Location: Canterbury
  • University founded: 1965

The University of Kent Debating Society was formed in 2009 by a group of students who believed that it was time for Kent students to have their own platform of free speech and a place to improve their debating skills. The following year they won ‘The Best New Society’ award from Kent Students’ Union, and as of 2013 were voted ‘The Best Society’ at the University of Kent. With over 200 members past and present, the society hosts packed weekly public debates. Over the 2012-2013 academic year Kent’s debating society has fielded teams at almost every domestic debating competition and spoke at the World University Debating Championships for the first time in its history.

University Philosophical Society, Trinity College Dublin 

  • University: Trinity College Dublin
  • Location: Dublin, Republic of Ireland
  • University founded: 1684

Over the past five centuries the world’s pre-eminent thinkers, creators and doers have spoken, debated and challenged minds, young and old, at the University Philosophical Society in Trinity College Dublin. 

Founded in 1684, the society, true to its traditions, continues to be run by undergraduates elected annually by its members, and guided by its Senior Patron, the Provost of Trinity College. Honorary members and patrons include many notable statesman, playwrights, philosophers, composers and more from around the world, including Nobel Peace Prize winners Archbishop Desmond Tutu, FW de Klerk, John Hume, David Trimble and Mohamed ElBaradei.

Recent guests and speakers have included Nancy Pelosi, Richard Dawkins, Joseph Nye, John Mearsheimer, John McCain, Helen Mirren, Hugh Laurie, Whoopi Goldberg, Conan O' Brien, Vivienne Westwood, Oliver Stone, Al Pacino, Gore Vidal, Alex Ferguson, Jimmy Wales, Tommy Hilfiger, Stephen Fry and numerous Nobel Laureates. In centuries past, a small selection of guests and speakers have included Winston Churchill, James Joyce, Frederick Engels and Alexis de Tocqueville. More information about the University Philosophical Society can be found at http://tcdphil.com/.

College Historical Society, Trinity College Dublin 

  • University: Trinity College Dublin
  • Location: Dublin, Republic of Ireland
  • University founded: 1684

The College Historical Society has been the premier intellectual forum in Ireland since its inception in 1770 and acts as a training ground for Ireland’s brightest to hone their skills in critical reasoning, articulation, and communication. As on of the world’s oldest undergraduate societies, the CHS set the model for debating societies throughout the British Isles and United States; in Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale. In February 1815, CHS committee members travelled to Cambridge University to assist the foundation of their debating union, a society which exists to this day as one of CHS’s sister organisations.

Since this time, the institution of the debating society has gone from strength to strength and exists today as a stage for public figures to address the issues of the day as well as a forum for the intellectual development of undergraduate students.

In its contemporary setting the College Historical Society provides a debating forum that attracts the world’s most prestigious speakers. Nobel laureates, heads of state, intellectuals and political activists come to Ireland each year to address the society’s members, as well as those who have made outstanding contributions to the arts. Addresses have come from speakers such as John Major, Shirin Ebadi, Noam Chomsky, Mary Robinson, Jeffrey Sachs, Joseph Stiglitz, W.B. Yeats, Ben Kingsley, Salman Rushdie, Tracy Emin and Jung Chang, to name a few. More information about the College Historical Society can be found at http://thehist.com/.

    Sheffield Hallam Debating Society

    • University: Sheffield Hallam University
    • Location: Sheffield
    • University founded: 1843

    Sheffield Hallam’s Debating Society meets weekly for group discussions on various political, philosophical, and controversial topics chosen by its members.

    The society has been running for three years and its casual, mixed discipline format has proved popular with students. Everyone has a chance to voice their opinions, or come along to simply listen to what there is to be said on the topics the society tackles.

    Dundee Debating Union 

    • University: University of Dundee
    • Location: Dundee
    • University founded: 1881

    Whether students are looking for a good discussion over a pint or a more structured debate, Dundee debating offers it all. With formal debates held every week followed by a great social scene and debate/ public speaking training offered on a regular basis, Dundee's debating society has something to suit everyone. Open to all university subjects and speakers of all levels of experience, Dundee's debating societies discusses different topics every week.

    University of Durham Union Society 

    • University: University of Durham
    • Location: Durham
    • University founded: 1832

    Established in 1842, thus making it Durham’s oldest student society, the Durham Union society was established to facilitate discussion and debate between the students of the university. Housed in the grand debating chamber on Palace Green, the Union today boasts over 3000 members in Durham. Each week, the Union Society tackles one of the most controversial issues of the day in its public debates and addresses, inviting high profile speakers to deliver their opinion and giving our members the opportunity engage with them. The Union also enjoys a successful competitive debating record, last year being ranked the eleventh best competitive debating institution in the world.

    Imperial College Debating Society 

    • University: Imperial College
    • Location: London
    • University founded: 1907

    Imperial College’s debating society came into existence in the 1880s, holding its first recorded Annual General Meeting in 1886. The renowned author and journalist H G Wells was one of the society’s founding members and referred to it as “our talking club”.

    The Imperial College Debating Society continues to train new and experienced speakers in the art of debate and to arrange public debates covering a wide range of topics. Its members regularly compete in inter-varsity competitions and the last two years have seen its speakers reach the break rounds of a number of high profile tournaments.

    The Aberystwyth Debating Union 

    • University: Aberystwyth University
    • Location: Aberystwyth
    • University founded: 1872

    Running one of the largest and most active Welsh debate societies, Aberystwyth’s debaters offer students attending Aberystwyth University the chance to learn highly valued skills in a welcoming and supportive environment.

    Aberystwyth host an annual debating competition and have also sent teams to compete in tournaments in Botswana, Ireland, Turkey and Serbia.

    Aberystwyth debaters have twice reached the finals of the International Mace and excelled at the 2013 World Universities Debating Championships, breaking 11th out of 387 teams.

    Warwick Debating Union 

    • University: The University of Warwick
    • Location: Coventry
    • University founded: 1965

    The Warwick Debating Union is the public debates branch of the Warwick Debating Society. It invites leading thinkers and influential figures from academia, politics and business to take part in public debates on pressing contemporary issues. The Warwick Debating Union has excelled in providing informative and stimulating debates to the Warwick student body.

    The Essex Debating Society 

    • University: The University of Essex
    • Location: Colechester
    • University founded: 1964

    Essex Debating Society was formed in 2007 and has been growing ever since. It members began to take part in the UK competitive debating circuit in 2011.

    In June 2013 Essex hosted its first inter-varsity debating tournament attracting teams from all over the UK, Ireland and even one from Israel.

    The University of Stirling Debating Society 

    • University: The University of Stirling
    • Location: Stirling
    • University founded: 1967

    University of Stirling Debating Society has been largely internal in its activities throughout its history. However, under the direction of its new committee, the society is now aiming to change this and become active within the national and international debating circuit. 

    Stirling Debating Society, with its growing membership base engages its members with a wide range of topics from historical, political, philosophical and religious to name just a few areas. 

    For more information, visit the Stirling Debate Union's website, http://stirlingdebatingsociety.blogspot.co.uk/.

    The LSE SU Debate Society 

    • University: The London School of Economics
    • Location: London
    • University founded: 1895

    The LSESU Debate Society provides training in public speaking and debating to undergraduate and post graduate students attending the London School of Economics. The society includes members from a wide of backgrounds who study a diverse selection of academic disciplines.

    Training twice weekly, the LSESU Debate Society is highly regarded on the competitive debating circuit, and its speakers make frequent appearances in the break rounds of international competitions, including the World Universities Debating Championships.

    New College of the Humanities Debating Society

    • University: New College of the Humanities
    • Location: London
    • University founded: 2012

    The NCH Debating Society was founded in 2012, when the College itself began teaching its first intake of unvergraduates. The society aims to foster enthusiasm for and engagement in public debate, both within NCH and between the College and the wider world. Internal debates at the College were well-attended last academic year and the society's members excited to be involved in the wider debating world in 2013.

    Lincoln's Inn Debating Society 

    • Inn: The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn
    • Location: London
    • Inn founded: 1422

    Lincoln's Inn is one of the four Inns of Court. The Inns of Court have played a fundamental role in preparing students for Call to the Bar and their progress to professional competence as barristers for many centuries.

    Lincoln’s Inn has a thriving Debating Club. The Club’s primary aim is to furnish our students with skills that will be useful to them as trainee barristers. However, we also take an active part in the university, national and international debating circuit. Teams from Lincoln’s Inn have won the John Smith Memorial Mace four times and have competed at the European and World Debating Championships on a number of occasions.

    Madison Debate Society 

    • University: James Madison University
    • Location: Virginia, United States of America
    • University founded: 1908

    At James Madison University, we believe that a well rounded and successful debate program requires a public debate presence.

    If debate programs are going to be able to argue for increases in resources over the next decade it is critical that they are able to demonstrate that they serve a broader population. Additionally, we feel that it makes our debaters who participate better citizens as they are forced to escape the bubble that is competitive debate and engage a much wider audience.

    More information about James Madison University's debate programmes is avaialble at http://sites.jmu.edu/debate/madison-debate-society/.