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Sir Ronald Cohen Debating Bursary

We are hugely grateful to the generosity of Sir Ronald Cohen, who served as President of the Oxford Union in Hilary Term 1967. The Sir Ronald Cohen Debating Bursary funds bursaries and reduced registration fees for the Oxford Schools’ Debating Competition, underscoring the Oxford Union’s commitment to access and widening participation. In 2024, the Sir Ronald Cohen Debating Bursary has supported the participation of 200 non-selective state schools.

Sir Ronald is Chairman of the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment and The Portland Trust. He is a co-founder director of Social Finance UK, USA, and Israel, and co-founder Chair of Bridges Fund Management and Big Society Capital.

For nearly two decades, Sir Ronald’s pioneering initiatives in driving impact investment have catalysed a number of global efforts, each focused on driving private capital to serve social and environmental good. These efforts are leading the global impact investment movement towards an Impact Revolution. He chaired the Social Impact Investment Taskforce established under the UK’s presidency of the G8 (2013-2015), the Social Investment Task Force (2000-2010) and the Commission on Unclaimed Assets (2005-2007). In 2012 he received the Rockefeller Foundation’s Innovation Award for innovation in social finance.

He is a member of the Board of Dean’s Advisors at Harvard Business School and a Vice-Chairman of Ben Gurion University; a former member of the Harvard University Board of Overseers; a former director of the Harvard Management Company and the University of Oxford Investment Committee; a former Trustee of the British Museum; and a former trustee of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

In 2007, Sir Ronald published: The Second Bounce of the Ball – Turning Risk into Opportunity and today is authoring a book on the “Impact Revolution.” Sir Ronald lives in Tel Aviv, London, and New York with his wife of more than thirty years, Sharon Harel-Cohen, who is a film producer. They have two children, Tamara and Jonny. 

The Oxford Union is the world's most prestigious debating society. Established in 1823 to uphold the principle of free speech, The Union is proud of its heritage as a forum for the exchange and debate of a wide range of ideas and opinions. Our members have the unique opportunity to challenge, question and interact with a broad range of speakers - some inspiring, others controversial.

Past debates have reverberated far beyond the Union's Chamber. In 1933, the Union passed its famous motion "This House would not in any circumstances fight for King and Country", an outcome that provoked public outcry and was described by Winston Churchill as "that abject, squalid, shameless avowal".

In 1975, just days before a national referendum on membership of the EEC, The Union debated the motion "This House Would Say Yes to Europe". With 493 voting for the motion and 92 against, this televised debate reportedly had considerable influence on the outcome of the referendum itself.

More recently, our members have debated alongside Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage as they clashed on the subject of EU membership, challenged or supported Medhi Hasan as he described why Islam is a religion of peace, and questioned Angela Davis as she argued that extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice, to mark the 50th anniversary of Malcolm X's address at the Union.

Details about our upcoming debates can be found in our online term card. In the meantime, we invite you to explore our YouTube channel and the below excerpts for a taste of an Oxford Union debate experience. For more information about the format of a Union debate, as well as how to participate, please visit Formal Debates. We encourage all members to take part and invite those interested in developing their speaking skills to visit 'Workshops & Competitive Debating' for details of how to get involved.

The Oxford Union is committed to ensuring that all members find our events as accessible as possible. If you need any adjustments to access our events, please contact who can help you to reserve space for a wheelchair, reserve space for guide dogs, or make any other necessary arrangements. We have a hearing aid loop in place which is accessed by switching to 'T'.

We look forward to welcoming all members, old and new, to a debate soon.

Contact details

Frewin Court
Oxford, OX1 3JB

+44 (0)1865 241353

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