Welcome to the University of St Andrews Union Debating Society: the oldest – and some might say the finest – of its kind, founded in 1794.
The St. Andrews Union Debating Society (UDS) has a rich and storied ancestry. Two hundred and twenty years ago, St Andrews scholars founded an Enlightenment literary society, where gentlemen could gather to discuss the literature, classics or journals that electrified the period. After just under a century, the Literary Society merged with the Classical Society to form our Union Debating Society; a society which went on to serve as a fulcrum of student discourse for a further hundred years, and which even today shows no sign of stopping.
It is this continuous and documented existence as a student-led society of letters which makes the UDS the oldest of its kind anywhere in the world.
The society has grown to be at the forefront of St Andrews tradition, producing scores of leading figures in public life within the United Kingdom and across the globe. With public debates held weekly in the historically significant 17th century Parliament Hall, the UDS attracts a variety of prestigious external speakers who are invited to debate alongside our student body, either for or against the week’s topical motion.
Despite its age and venerable standing, the Union Debating Society prides itself on allowing all of its students to voice their opinions freely and to listen to debates without any financial stipulation. All matriculated students at the University of St. Andrews are automatically granted membership, can attend public debates free of charge, and are encouraged to voice their thoughts as the debates progress.
Beyond St Andrews, the UDS competes fiercely and with great success at competitions around the world. Varsity debate sits at the heart of the society’s culture, and has gone from strength to strength in recent years. Teams from St. Andrews have competed in Germany, India and the Phillipines in recent years; and substantial success at these international events was rounded out by a historic victory at the Cambridge Inter Varsity in 2013.
Irrespective of this triumph, the UDS training programmes within St. Andrews emphasises the inclusion of novice or amateur speakers and extends beyond the University to include school children at the local St. Leonard’s and Madras Colleges. Through such public debate and community engagement, the UDS is proud to be part of the town of St Andrews, as well as its university.
All are welcome in the UDS, and whether one hopes to be a competitive champion, public orator or simply desires stirring conversation among friends down at the pub, we hope that the UDS goes on welcoming and inspiring people for another two hundred years to come.