Otago University Debating Society

The Otago University Debating Society (OUDS) is a debating society established in June 1878 and is the oldest society of the University of Otago,[1][2] the first university to be founded in New Zealand. Echoing trends in Australia and the United States (the University of Sydney Union was founded in 1874 and Harvard's debating union in 1880), in the latter decades of the nineteenth century debating was seen as an important talent for New Zealand's thought leaders,[3] and was one of the three sports in the New Zealand University Games from 1902.

Prominent members of OUDS during its early years included Alfred Richard Barclay (one of its first vice-presidents),[4] William Downie Stewart Jr (1898–1900),[5] Harry Bedford (1900–1901)[6] who as a 25-year-old policial novice entered Parliament in 1902 with the highest individual vote that had ever been recorded in New Zealand,[7] John Callan (who won the Joynt Challenge Scroll in 1905)[8] and Ossie Mazengarb (c.1910).[9]

OUDS is one of the five societies in the New Zealand Universities Debating Council,[10] through which members compete in domestic, national and international tournaments. In conjunction with members from the Otago University Rugby Club, OUDS members formed the Otago University Students' Association (OUSA) in 1890 because it felt that university students needed strong representation. OUSA has since become a strong advocate for student rights.


OUDS ExecutiveEdit

OUDS has an eight-person executive composed of the President, Vice President, Secretary-Treasurer, Senior Development Officer, Novice Development Officer, Schools Officer, Externals Officer, and Equity Officer. An additional Women's portfolio also exists, which is delegated to a female-identifying member of the executive.[citation needed]


OUDS is financially supported by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Otago, the Faculty of Law at the University of Otago, and Anderson Lloyd.[11]


Glossary of Debating TermsEdit

  • CA/DCA- The chief adjudicator/deputy chief adjudicators are judges selected to run the debating side of a tournament, and are responsible for selecting motions, setting a timetable, and running the tournament.
  • Convenors- Individuals in charge of running the administrative side of a tournament, such as booking rooms and organising social events.
  • Team names- Team names are based on a team's institution, and ranking within that institution. For example, the best Otago team is referred to as O1, the best Victoria team as V1, and so on and so forth.
  • Majors- Majors are the main tournaments which OUDS participates in. There are four major tournaments for OUDS: Joynt Scroll, Australs, Officers Cup and Worlds.
  • Breaking- When a team or judge is selected to participate in the out-rounds of a tournament (e.g. Semi-finals, Finals).
  • Supers- Supers, or Super-adjudicators are judges who have CAed or DCAed a tournament. They are traditionally expected to be of a high quality as judges, are exempt from campus conflicts, and are responsible for accrediting new judges.
  • Accreditation- A process where new judges 'trainee', and watch debates alongside a more experienced judge until they are thought to be of a high-enough quality to accredit (or qualify) as a judge. Which trainees accredit is decided by whichever super-adjudicators are attending a tournament. Trainees are able to accredit at any one of four tournaments; Joynt Scroll, Claytons, Officers Cup or Thropy. Only accredited judges are able to judge New Zealand's two major tournaments; Officers Cup and Joynt Scroll.

Bluff CupEdit

The Bluff Cup is the weekly internal tournament held between teams of debaters at OUDS. Each team name is based on a South Island locality. The Bluff Cup itself was donated in 1988 by the team that won the OUDS championship in that year, Team Bluff. At the end of Otago's first semester, a final is held. Recent winners include:

  • 2016: Nathaniel Brown, Grace Belworthy and Emily Williams
  • 2017: Adam Sangster and Jeanne-Marie Bonnet
  • 2018: Andre Castaing and William Warren
  • 2019: Anna Roberts, Shannon Chalmers, Seth Whittington

A more complete list can be found on the OUDS website.[12]

Joynt ScrollEdit

Joynt Scroll (Formerly known as New Zealand University Prepared Debating Championships or "Winters") is a three team member debating competition. Joynt Scroll is New Zealand's oldest and most respected national university debating tournament, and is New Zealand's second oldest sporting competition. Until recently, it was a fully prepared tournament held during the second semester break, but in 2019, the tournament was changed to have only thirty minutes of preparation time, and was moved to the first semester break (Easter time). Otago has consistently performed well at Joynt scroll

  • In 2011, O1 (Kieran Bunn, William Cheyne and Paul Hunt) made it to the semi-finals of the competition, only to be defeated by the eventual winners, Victoria Two. William Cheyne was named as Captain of the NZ Prepared Debating team (an honorary team made up of the best speakers of the tournament) that year.
  • In 2012 O1 (Nicholas Gavey, Kieran Bunn, Paul Hunt) finished as runners up.[13]
  • In 2013, O1 (Patrick Dawson, Kieran Bunn and John Brinsley-Pirie) once more reached the semifinals, [14] with speaker Kieran Bunn named as best speaker of the tournament and John Brinsley-Pirie named as 1st reserve to the New Zealand Team.
  • In 2014, O1 (Liv Hall, Kieran Bunn, Alec Dawson) won the tournament.
  • In 2015, O1 (Alice Sowry, John Brinsley-Pirie and Jamie Tocher) once again made the final.
  • In 2016, O1 (Paul Hunt, Joe Ascroft and Jamie Tocher) again made the final and lost to the University of Auckland. Joe Ascroft was chosen as second reserve and Jamie Tocher chosen as first reserve for the championship team.
  • In 2017, OUDS judge Courtney Cunningham was a DCA for Joynt Scroll, and OUDS judge Emily Williams broke as a judge.
  • In 2018, OUDS judges Joe Ascroft and Emily Williams were DCAs, and OUDS alumna Alice Sowry was the CA.
  • In 2019, Otago hosted Joynt Scroll. The tournament was convened by Joe Garry and Selena Ballantyne, and the CA was OUDS alumni Joe Ascroft. O1 (Connor Seddon, Nick Robertson and Grace Belworthy) won the tournament, and OUDS judge Simon Williams broke as a judge.
  • In 2022, O1 (Joe Garry, Jaiden Tucker, Georgia Barclay) won the tournament.


Claytons is an amateur tournament for debaters who have not spoken at more than two major tournaments. It is held annually between OUDS and the University of Canterbury Debating Society and has sometimes included teams from Waikato University (as in 2011). Traditionally Otago and Canterbury alternate as hosts of the event with adjudicators from other University debating societies, such as Victoria, travelling to adjudicate debates at Claytons for the purpose of accrediting trainee adjudicators.

Teams of three speakers are given 30 minutes preparation time before each debate. A round of debates is held in a pool format and teams with the best records in terms of wins and speaker points from those debates advance to the semi-finals and finals of the tournament. The 2006 competition, hosted by OUDS was in Waimate, South Canterbury and was won by a team from Canterbury. The 2007 tournament, held in Christchurch, was won by Otago. In more recent history Otago won the 2011 and 2012 tournaments also held in Waimate. Both of these were Otago-Otago finals. In 2013 Canterbury won the Claytons final in a 5–4 split decision which gave rise to the Goodall paradox.

From 2014 onwards, Claytons has been held at the Raincliff Anglican Youth Camp. From 2014 to 2017, Otago-Otago finals occurred. In 2018 and 2019, Otago-Canterbury finals occurred, and the tournament was won by Canterbury both years.

As a tournament Claytons is noted for its unique social nature compared to other debating tournaments held in New Zealand. Participating debaters socialise in the same common area and sleep in the same living quarters over the entire tournament. At other tournaments, teams from different societies are often housed in different hotel rooms and do not have a focal social commons. Claytons is also unique in that it takes place at a scout camp. Debates are held in sleeping rooms, the main room and outside.

An equivalent tournament, Thropy, is held in the North Island between Victoria, Auckland and Waikato Debating Societies.

Australasian Intervarsity Debating ChampionshipsEdit

The Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championships more commonly known as "Australs" is a week-long competition held in the break between university semesters. Debates are held over a range of international topics. Australs follows a traditional debating format: three team members with eight preliminary rounds. Topics are impromptu with half an hour of preparation time allowed.

The 2010 Australs was hosted by the University of Auckland Debating Society. OUDS sent seven teams and six adjudicators. William Chisholm was a grand final adjudicator.[15] In 2011 Australs was held in South Korea. Otago sent two teams and three adjudicators. The Otago One team (Purdon, Bunn, Hunt) broke in 15th place to the double-octo finals. In 2012 Otago sent five teams and four adjudicators to Australs hosted by Victoria University of Wellington.

In 2013 the Otago University Debating Society was successful in a bid to host the 2014 Australs.[16]

In 2017, OUDS broke to the Octo-finals of Australs with a team of Joe Ascroft, Emily Williams and Grace Belworthy.

Officers CupEdit

Easters, (previously known as the "University Games") is the first national debating tournament of the year, competing for the Officer's Cup.[17] OUDS has been a regular competitor at the tournament (usually sending the maximum of five teams) ever since the first event in 1902.[18] The tournament is held in the first mid-semester break. Teams of two speakers are given five minutes' preparation time. University Games (Easters) 2010 was held in Invercargill.[19][20]

In 2018, Otago defeated Victoria University in the final with a team of Joe Ascroft and Emily Williams, this was the first time Otago had won the tournament in 20 years.[21]

Otago is due to host Easters in 2019.

World Universities Debating ChampionshipEdit

OUDS has sent teams to the World Universities Debating Championship. In 2013 Otago sent three teams, all of whom 'broke' or qualified, for the 48 team knock out rounds. The Otago A team of Alec Dawson and Kieran Bunn made it into the top four teams and competed in the grand final (ultimately won by the Monash B team). In the 2014 Worlds in Chennai, Otago sent two teams, once again breaking both teams into the knock out rounds. Unfortunately both teams were knocked out in the octo-finals. Otago University has traditionally been very supportive of the OUDS WUDC campaigns.[22][23]

Australasian Womens Debating ChampionshipsEdit

OUDS has regularly sent teams to Australasian Women's. Some of the best women debaters from around the world compete in the tournament, which is aimed at development for junior speakers. In 2016, Otago made it to the grand final with a team of Emily Williams and Alice Sowery. Similarly, in 2017 Otago broke to the semi-finals of the tournament with a team of Emily Williams and Selena Ballantyne.

In 2017, Otago won a bid to host AWDC in 2018.

Otago AWDC 2018 occurred in early September 2018. Teams from around Australasia attended the tournament. Two Otago teams broke into the quarter finals. Otago 1 made it to the Grand Finals. Grace Belworthy was awarded fifth best speaker of the tournament.

New Zealand Womens Debating ChampionshipsEdit

In 2018, Otago sent a team to the first NZ Women's Debating Championships.

OUDS alumniEdit

1988 OUDS members

There are a number of notable alumni members.

Rhodes ScholarsEdit

OUDS alumni include a number of Otago University's Rhodes Scholars who have also held executive positions in the society. Recent OUDS recipients of the award include:

  • Damen Ward, Rhodes Scholar 1999.
  • Sally McKechnie, Rhodes Scholar 2000[28]
  • Chris Curran, Rhodes Scholar 2001[29]
  • Rachel Carrell, Rhodes Scholar 2002[30]
  • Holly Walker, Rhodes Scholar 2007[31]
  • Louis Chambers, Rhodes Scholar 2012, president of OUDS 2010/2011[32][33]

Media profile and public debatesEdit

OUDS has a long coverage relationship with the Otago Daily Times going back at least as far as 1894.[34] The ODT has recently covered public debates held by OUDS featuring high-profile speakers on controversial contemporary issues. These include debates about mining and deep-sea oil drilling in New Zealand[35][36] and alcohol age legislation.[37]

OUDS has been featured regularly in the Otago University student magazine, Critic, since the magazines inception in 1925. From 2010 to 2011 Critic had a regular feature column called "Debatable" where two writers would argue the affirming or negative case on a moot.[38]


  1. ^
    • The Otago University Review: A History of the Otago University During its Minority. Otago University. 1893. p. 43. Of all the institutions now existing in connection with our College the oldest is the Debating Society.... the centre of the University life, from which radiated the social intercourse of the students
  2. ^ William Parker Morrell (1969). The University of Otago, a Centennial History. Dunedin: University of Otago Press.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "In the Public Eye". New Zealand Illustrated Magazine. 1 July 1901. p. 739.
  5. ^ Stephanie Dale. "Stewart, William Downie". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  6. ^ "A Promising Career". Hawera & Normanby Star. Vol. XLII, no. 7617. 1 December 1902. p. 2.
  7. ^ Gill, Michael. "Bedford, Harry Dodgshun". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 15 August 2020.
  8. ^ P J Downey. "Callan, John Bartholomew". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  9. ^ G P Barton. "Mazengarb, Oswald Chettle". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  10. ^ "Who We Are". New Zealand Universities Debating Council. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  11. ^ "Anderson Lloyd | New Zealand Law Firm". Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  12. ^ "OUDS Prizes". OUDS. Archived from the original on 24 October 2019. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  13. ^ "Victoria Wins Joynt Scroll Debating" Archived 25 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine University Sport website.
  14. ^ Further successes for debating society | Otago Daily Times Online News
  15. ^ "Tournament Summary". Australasian Intervarsity Debating 2010. University of Auckland. 12 July 2010. Archived from the original on 25 May 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  16. ^ University to host big debating event | Otago Daily Times Online News
  17. ^ "Easters". University of Auckland Debating Society. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  18. ^ "The First University Tournament". Evening Post. Vol. LXIII, no. 64. 15 March 1902. p. 4.
  19. ^ 2010 Uni Games, The Southland Times, 14 April 2010 ("The 2010 Uni Games, held in Invercargill from April 14 to 16"; also slide 18 shows Otago debate team member Kurt Purdon)
  20. ^ Victoria beats Otago in debating contest, The Southland Times, 16 April 2010
  21. ^ "Otago University Debating Society". Retrieved 2 April 2018 – via Facebook.
  22. ^ "Otago Law Students Impressive at World Universities Debating Societies Championship" – Otago Faculty of Law http://www.otago.ac.nz/law/news/otago040805.html
  23. ^ "Otago debaters in world top four" – Otago Daily Times 5 January 2013 http://www.odt.co.nz/campus/university-otago/241473/otago-debaters-world-top-four
  24. ^ Laws, Michael (1998). The Demon Profession. HarperCollins New Zealand. ISBN 1-86950-257-4.
  25. ^ Michael Laws (2 August 2010). "Carter's Goff gaffe exposes Labour leadership vacuum". The Sunday Star-Times.
  26. ^ "Green Party candidate profile: Holly Walker". Archived from the original on 12 February 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
  27. ^ "AtoJs Online – Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives – 1898 Session I – E-07 EDUCATION: THE UNIVERSITY OF OTAGO". Atojs.natlib.govt.nz. 1898. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  28. ^ "Otago Rhodes Scholars" (PDF). University of Otago Magazine. No. 3. October 2002. p. 14.
  29. ^ "Chris Curran, University of Otago, New Zealand". Otago.ac.nz. Archived from the original on 24 June 2013. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  30. ^ "'Dream job' keeps University of Otago graduate in UK | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand & International News". Otago Daily Times. 28 May 2012. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  31. ^ "Rhodes Scholar class of 2007 – The Rhodes Scholarships". Rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk. 28 January 2013. Archived from the original on 19 August 2012. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  32. ^ 'Two Otago Rhodes Scholars' – Otago Daily Times http://www.odt.co.nz/campus/university-otago/233981/two-otago-rhodes-scholars
  33. ^ Rhodes Scholarship Trust Profile – http://www.rhodesscholarshiptrust.com/rhodes-scholars-elect-class-of-2013/louis-chambers Archived 22 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ "Papers Past – Otago Daily Times – 22 September 1894 – OTAGO UNIVERSITY DEBATING SOCIETY". Paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  35. ^ "Debate on merits of mining attracts 200 | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand & International News". Otago Daily Times. 26 May 2011. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  36. ^ "Drill Baby Drill – debate tonight – David Clark – Dunedin North". Davidclark.org.nz. 25 May 2011. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  37. ^ "Split drinking age proposal debated | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand & International News". Otago Daily Times. 26 July 2012. Retrieved 28 May 2013.
  38. ^ "Debatable – Columns | Critic Te Arohi". Critic.co.nz. Retrieved 28 May 2013.

External linksEdit