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World Universities Debating Championship

The World Universities Debating Championship (WUDC) is the world's largest debating tournament, and one of the largest annual international student events in the world.[1] WUDC is parliamentary debating tournament held in British Parliamentary Debate format (involving four teams of two people in each debate). Historically, the format of WUDC was determined by the host country which allowed for the American Parliamentary Debate format (two teams of two people).[2] Each year, the event is hosted by a university selected by the World Universities Debating Council. The tournament is colloquially referred to as "Worlds" and the winners of the open competition acknowledged as the "world champions". The current world champions are Kevin Lee and Bostan Nurlanov from the University of Sydney. The university with the most world championships is the University of Sydney with 8, and the high school with the most world champions is Sydney Grammar School with 7.[3] 2019 was the first year where both Winners and the Best Overall Speaker, 3 different people, all attended the same high school and university, that is, Sydney Grammar School and the University of Sydney.[4] 2019 was also the first year where 3 people in the 8 people Grand Final all attended the same high school, that is, Sydney Grammar School.

World Universities Debating Championship
FormatBritish Parliamentary Style
Number of Teams~250-400
Record participation~400 teams (2012), Possibly 440 teams in the Thailand WUDC 2020
Current championsUniversity of Sydney
Most championshipsUniversity of Sydney (8)


Predecessor TournamentsEdit

The Trans-Atlantic University Speech Association held tournaments in London (1976 and 1978) and at McGill University, Montreal, in 1977. Chicago was to hold a tournament in 1979 but this was postponed and then abandoned. A "World Debating Festival", sponsored by Honeywell was held in Sydney in 1978. The TAUSA event attracted mostly Northern Hemisphere tournaments, the Honeywell was largely Southern Hemisphere.


The championship is usually held in the days following the 25th of December, since many of the institutions attending from the Northern Hemisphere where the championship originated take vacations at this time. Although many countries that do not celebrate Christmas have become participants at the competition, the timing has remained the same. In most recent years, the nine preliminary rounds of the tournament have been held over three days from 29–31 December, with the elimination rounds being held on 2 January and the Grand Final on 3 January.

In recent years, the championship has varied from about 150 to 400 teams, depending on the capacity of the host institution. With judges and organisers, this involves 500 to 1,000 participants in all.

The competition involves nine preliminary rounds, which become "power-paired" as the tournament progresses, matching the strongest-performing teams against each other. Two teams form the "government" ("proposition" in the UK and North America) and two the "opposition" in each debate room. The process of scoring and pairing these teams is known as "tabbing". The scoring of teams is done by judges, most of whom are students or former students from the competing institutions, who return "ballots" with their scores to the adjudication team, led by a Chief Adjudicator who is assisted by one or more deputies. The deputies are not members of the host institution.

The nine preliminary rounds are followed by a "break" at which the teams proceeding to elimination rounds are announced. This is traditionally done on New Year's Eve, although this is subject to the timing of the tournament. In the current tournament format, the top 16 teams from the preliminary rounds proceed to the octofinal round. The teams ranked 17-48 also break into a partial double octofinal round, and the winning teams from this round join the teams ranked 1-16 in the octo-finals. While preliminary rounds are usually judged by three to five judges, the break rounds are judged by panels of five, semifinal judged by panels of seven and the finals by panels of nine.

Separate breaks are announced for the English-as-a-second language (ESL) and English-as-a-foreign language (EFL) team competitions, for the individual public speaking competition, and the "World Masters" tournament which is participated in by judges (most of whom are no longer students) representing the countries where they studied or of which they are citizens. In addition, a comedy competition is also open to all participants in Worlds.


The World Universities Debating Council consists of representatives of every country that competes at the World Universities Debating Championship. Each country selects one council delegate (the national debating association president, or selected from the participants at Worlds). The Council is responsible for setting the rules and awarding the right to host the championships.

A Worlds Committee is elected to discuss issues during the year as Council only meets at the championships itself. This Committee consists of a mix of elected officers and regional representatives from Africa, the Americas, Australia and New Zealand, Continental Europe and the Middle East, and the British Isles (referred to in debating as Islands of the North Atlantic thought more politically acceptable than British Isles).

The Council formerly operated not unlike the United Nations Security Council, with seven nations holding "charter member status" – the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. A two-thirds majority of these countries was required for changes to the championship's constitution, irrespective of how the general vote was tallied. However, as the number of non-charter nations attending grew, many fielding far more teams than some of the upper tier, and the championship began being hosted outside the Charter nations, pressure grew for the distinction to be eliminated.

The modern championship grants voting strength of between one and four votes per country, based on numbers of institutions attending recent championships. To allow for fluctuations in participation due to the financial difference in attending championships nearer or further in succeeding years, nations lose or gain their voting strength gradually.

List of TournamentsEdit

Year Host City Hosting Institution Winning Institution Best Speaker
2021   Goyang, South Korea Debate Korea Forthcoming Forthcoming
2020   Bangkok, Thailand Assumption University Forthcoming Forthcoming
2019   Cape Town, South Africa University of Cape Town University of Sydney James Stratton, University of Sydney
2018   Mexico City, México Asociación Mexicana de Debate Harvard University Dan Lahav, Tel Aviv University
2017   The Hague, Netherlands Debating Societies of the Netherlands University of Sydney Raffy Marshall, University of Oxford
2016   Thessaloniki, Greece Debating Society of Greece Harvard University Michael Dunn Goekjian, Faculty of Business Economics and Entrepreneurship, Belgrade
2015   Shah Alam, Malaysia Universiti Teknologi MARA University of Sydney Ashish Kumar, University of Cambridge
2014   Chennai Worlds 2014, Chennai, India Rajalakshmi Engineering College Harvard University Eleanor Jones, University of Sydney
2013   Berlin, Germany Berlin Debating Union Monash University Chris Bissett, Monash University
2012   Manila, Philippines De La Salle Monash University Ben Woolgar, University of Oxford
2011   Gaborone, Botswana University of Botswana Monash University Victor Finkel, Monash University
2010   Istanbul, Turkey Koç University University of Sydney Shengwu Li, University of Oxford
2009   Cork, Ireland University College Cork University of Oxford Naomi Oreb, University of Sydney
2008   Bangkok, Thailand Assumption University University of Oxford Sam Block, University of Cambridge
2007   Vancouver, Canada University of British Columbia University of Sydney Jess Prince, University of Oxford
2006   Dublin, Ireland University College Dublin Hart House Rory Gillis & Beth O'Connor, Yale University
2005   Cyberjaya, Malaysia Multimedia University University of Ottawa Kylie Lane, Monash University
2004   Singapore Nanyang Technological University Middle Temple Alex Croft, University of Sydney
2003   South Africa Stellenbosch University University of Cambridge Wu Meng Tan, University of Cambridge
2002   Toronto, Canada Hart House New York University School of Law Ewan Smith, University of Oxford
2001   Scotland Glasgow University Union University of Sydney Paul Hunyor, University of Sydney
2000   Sydney, Australia University of Sydney Monash University Andy Kidd, University of Oxford
1999   Manila, Philippines Ateneo de Manila University Monash University Andy Kidd, University of Oxford
1998   Athens, Greece Deree College Gray's Inn Neil Sheldon, Gray's Inn
1997   Stellenbosch, South Africa Stellenbosch University Glasgow University Union Andy George, Gray's Inn
1996   Cork, Ireland University College Cork Macquarie University Adam Spencer, University of Sydney
1995   Princeton, United States of America Princeton University University of New South Wales Chitra Jenardhanan, Nanyang Technological University
1994   Melbourne, Australia Melbourne Glasgow University Union Ben Richards, Monash University
1993   Oxford, England Oxford Union Society Harvard University Daniel Mulino, Australian National University
1992   Dublin, Ireland Trinity College Dublin Glasgow University Union James Hooke, University of New South Wales & Richard Douglas, Australian National University
1991   Toronto, Canada Hart House, University of Toronto McGill University Steve Bibas, University of Oxford
1990   Glasgow, Scotland Glasgow University Union Yale University
1989   Princeton, United States of America Princeton University University of Sydney John Gastil, Swarthmore College
1988   Sydney, Australia University of Sydney University of Oxford Francis Greenslade University of Adelaide
1987   Dublin, Ireland University College Dublin Glasgow University Union Michael Hall, University of Oxford
1986   New York City, United States of America Fordham University University College Cork Bruce Meagher, University of Sydney
1985   Montreal, Canada McGill University The Honorable Society of King's Inns Ashley Black, University of Sydney
1984   Edinburgh, Scotland University of Edinburgh University of Sydney David Celermajer, University of Sydney
1983   Princeton, United States of America Princeton University Glasgow University Dialectic Society John Geisnell
1982   Toronto, Canada Hart House, University of Toronto University of Auckland Stuart Bugg, University of Auckland
1981   Glasgow, Scotland Glasgow University Union Hart House Andrew Taylor, Hart House

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ - WUDC history Archived April 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^
  3. ^ e.g. David Celermajer (1984), Andrew Bell (1989), Jeremy Phillips and James Hooke (1995), Nick Chung (2015), Bostan Nurlanov and Kevin Lee (2019)
  4. ^ e.g. Kevin Lee and James Stratton (Sydney Grammar 2014) and Bostan Nurlanov (Sydney Grammar 2012)

External linksEdit