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The Cambridge Debating Style and the Storied Legacy of the Cambridge Union

Published on April 3, 2023

blog Trending

The Cambridge Debating Style and the Storied Legacy of the Cambridge Union


The Cambridge Union, founded in 1815, is a cornerstone of academic debate and intellectual exchange at the University of Cambridge. Steeped in history and tradition, it has fostered a unique debating style that distinguishes it from other debating societies around the world. In this essay, we will delve into the essence of the Cambridge Debating Style and explore the rich legacy of the Cambridge Union.

The Cambridge Debating Style

The Cambridge Debating Style, also known as the British Parliamentary Style, is characterized by its emphasis on clarity, wit, and brevity. This format typically involves four teams, with two teams supporting a motion and two teams opposing it. Each team consists of two speakers, and the debate is structured around a series of alternating speeches, with each speaker given a set amount of time to present their arguments.

A hallmark of the Cambridge Debating Style is the use of Points of Information (POIs), which enable speakers from opposing teams to interject during a speech and challenge the speaker’s arguments. This element not only tests the speaker’s ability to think on their feet but also encourages a dynamic and engaging exchange of ideas.

The Cambridge Union

The Cambridge Union has played a pivotal role in nurturing the art of debate at the University of Cambridge. Over the years, it has hosted numerous distinguished speakers, including prime ministers, Nobel laureates, and renowned figures from various fields. By providing a platform for these individuals to share their insights, the Union has fostered intellectual curiosity and stimulated thought-provoking discussions among students and the wider community.

In addition to its regular debates, the Cambridge Union also organizes workshops, training sessions, and competitions to nurture budding debaters and develop their skills in the Cambridge Debating Style. The Union’s commitment to fostering intellectual growth is further exemplified by its impressive library, which houses an extensive collection of books, journals, and historical documents, serving as a vital resource for students and researchers.

The Impact of the Cambridge Union

The Cambridge Union’s influence extends far beyond the confines of the university. Its members have gone on to make significant contributions to politics, academia, and various other fields, demonstrating the impact that rigorous debate and intellectual engagement can have on shaping future leaders.

Moreover, the Union’s legacy has inspired the establishment of other debating societies worldwide, spreading the principles of the Cambridge Debating Style to a global audience. The annual Cambridge IV debating tournament, for instance, attracts teams from around the world, fostering an international exchange of ideas and fostering a global appreciation for the art of debate.


The Cambridge Debating Style and the Cambridge Union together represent a cherished tradition of intellectual inquiry and discourse at the University of Cambridge. By championing open and respectful debate, the Union has not only helped shape generations of leaders and thinkers but has also played a vital role in promoting the free exchange of ideas on a global scale. In a world fraught with challenges and uncertainties, the continued relevance of the Cambridge Union and its unique debating style underscores the importance of critical thinking and open dialogue as essential tools for building a better future.

P.S – If you found this interesting – you can check out our debate workshop from Oxford and Cambridge –

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