StudyAdvantage Magazine

5 Best Student Debating Clubs in the World

Published: January 9, 2017

In the Remarkable Student Societies article series on StudyAdvantage, we showcase the most impressive, admirable, strangest and nichest student clubs and societies from around the world. We’re not saying you should apply to a university based on society life…however, if you do, you won’t be the first. Here are the 5 Best Student Debating Clubs in the World.

Some years (perhaps decades) ago, debating was a core feature of campus life at many esteemed colleges and universities around the world, and some of today’s luminaries in politics honed their skills in the debating circuits. Its popularity might have waned ever-so-slightly, but there are still highly active and hugely impressive debating clubs around, and every year they compete in regional, national and international competitions. Here are 5 of the Best Student Debating Clubs in the World:


Harvard College Debating Union, Harvard University, USA

Previously known as the Harvard Speech and Parliamentary Debate Society, this is arguably the world’s best student debating club. Recent achievements include US national champions (winners of ADPA) in 2012, 2013 and 2015, and international champions (winners of the WUDC) in 2014 and 2016. Watch the video of their remarkable performance at the WUDC in Greece in 2016 at the bottom of the page, and read this article in Harvard’s student newspaper The Crimson to learn more about their recent debate stars.

Want to learn more about student life at Harvard? Check out this article about the secretive Fly Club.

WUDC 2016 Harvard
Image: © Thessaloniki WUDC 2016


Oxford Union, University of Oxford, England 

The Oxford Union is world renowned, but its fame stems primarily from its more public ‘chamber debates’, as opposed to competitive student debating. The chamber events are typically panel debates or public lectures, and have featured speakers such as Mother Theresa, Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton, Shakira and Winston Churchill. But despite its lower public profile, the competitive student debating side of the club is no less professional, and were among the finalists in the most recent 2017 WUDC in The Hague.

Don’t miss out on some of the amazing debates on the Oxford Union’s Youtube channel.

Or go and read about this controversial, famous Oxford alumnus.

Kerry at Oxford Union
US Secretary of State John Kerry addressing the Oxford Union


USU Debating Society, University of Sydney, Australia

A regular feature at the WUDC, the USU Debating Society are the reigning world champions, having just won the 2017 title in The Hague.

USU Debating Society


Yale Debate Association, Yale University, USA

Self-described on their website as “the most successful intercollegiate debating society in North America”, Yale Debate Association has an impressive track record as ADPA champions 5 times since 2000, most recently in 2014. Former members include former US President William Taft and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Curious what being an international student at Yale is like? Read Faith’s blog.



The Cambridge Union, University of Cambridge, England

A ‘debating and free speech society’, and allegedly the oldest of such kind in the world, the Cambridge Union is a private society separate from the University (as such, students studying at Cambridge’s second university, Anglia Ruskin, are also welcomed as members). It is also said to have inspired the creation of the Oxford Union (see above) as well as societies at other universities, including Yale. As with the Oxford Union, the Cambridge Union often hosts high profile speakers; previous ones have included Presidents and Prime Ministers, but also many controversial figures, such as Libyan dictator al-Gaddafi, former IMF head Strauss-Kahn, model-actress Pamela Anderson, and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Don’t miss out on some of the amazing debates on the Cambridge Union’s Youtube channel.

Want to learn more about student life at Cambridge? Read Azfer’s amazing, reflective blog.


For the real debating fans, here is the video of the final debate at the World University Debating Championship in 2016, showcasing both Harvard and Sydney from the list above.


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