The Oxford Union has a rich history and a long tradition of bringing together world leaders, thinkers and influencers to debate issues and explore ideas across politics, religion, science, the arts and literature.
Our debates are held every Thursday evening during term time and follow the same format each week. Guest speakers will argue in favour of or against a pre-determined motion, details of which are included in the term card.
The first speaker for the proposition will always open the debate and introduce the other participants. The first speaker for the opposition will then introduce the first speaker and open the case for the opposition. A debate typically involves three to four speakers on each side, who alternate to present their case.
The debate result is determined by the number of individuals who depart the Chamber by walking through the doors marked ‘Ayes’ or ‘Noes’, in a similar manner to how votes are cast in the House of Commons.
Members can then gather in the bar to await the result of the night’s motion which will be announced once all have exited the chamber and voted - or even carry on the debate while taking advantage of our F&B promotions. Balloted members, committee, and student speakers in the debate are invited to a small drinks reception to thank the guest speakers for their participation.
Members have their say
Members can challenge a speaker at any time during the debate by raising a ‘point of information’, although it remains at the discretion of the individual speaker whether to accept an interjection. The Rules and Forms of the house are included on all order papers, available in the debating chamber, or can be viewed online here.
Members are also encouraged to express their views by giving short 'floor speeches' when the debate is opened to the audience.
Those wanting to boost their public speaking skills and confidence in a more relaxed setting can also take part in an ‘emergency debate’ – this is a smaller scale debate held immediately before each of our main debates. The motion, usually drawn from the current news agenda, is decided at the start of each week.
See below for excerpts from some of our recent debates - or visit our YouTube Channel. You can visit Membership to find out more about joining The Oxford Union.