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Debating Society

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About Us

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Established since 1893, the Debating Society are the home of free discussion and contentious debate at the University of Exeter.  Each week, we run two well-loved events: a skills-based workshop and a public ‘show debate’. 

Our Monday Workshops give you a chance to learn and refine your public speaking skills.  Every week, our experienced Intervarsity Captains teach vital argumentative and oratory skills in a relaxed environment.  These engaging sessions are tailored to both complete beginners and those with competition experience.  Whether you wish to be more confident, more competitive, or just have fun, these workshops are right for you!

Our Friday Show Debates are a constant source of entertainment and valuable discourse for all students on campus.  We invite four speakers, hand-picked by our Chairman for their expertise, to speak on some of the most pressing issues of the day. Members can not only gain insight into these topics by watching experts debate, but can also engage in the debate themselves by asking questions, a great opportunity for all involved. We tackle big, controversial topics such as; sex work, euthanasia, no-platforming, religion and the EU. Some of our recent speakers at our debates have included:

Politicians; Jacob Rees-Mogg MP; Ben Bradshaw MP; Anne Widdecombe; and Baroness Natalie Bennett.

Celebrities; Stephen Fry (comedian, writer, and general intellectual); Karina Currie (pornstar, writer and producer); Peter Bleksley (ex-'chief' on Channel 4's Hunted); and Larry Sanders (academic and brother of Bernie Sanders).

Journalists; Peter Hitchens (Daily Mail); Jane Fae (Guardian); Harry Fear (Independent).

Historians; Stephen Bungay (The Art of Action); Diane Atkinson (Rise Up Women! The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes)

These debates give attendees the chance to ask our panellists questions and join the conversation via Twitter. They also provide an excellent opportunity to gain a better understanding of new subjects and to network with influential decision-makers.

We are also proud to boast of the historically notable leaders and Prime Minsters which have spoken with us: H.H. Asquith (Prime Minister 1908-16), Anthony Eden (Prime Minister 1955-57), Ludovic Kennedy (a key figure in the abolition of the death penalty, and Michael Foot (Leader of the Labour Party 1980-83).

As well as our weekly events, the society has a hugely active social side. We run annual Winter and Spring Balls, a Prosecco Social at the start of the term, a Rail Ale Trail as well as many other social activities -- many members join us purely for these socials alone.

Aims and Objectives:

  • Critical engagement with public discourse. To guarantee that members can engage with notable intellectual and public figures on their area of expertise; as well as having the opportunity to converse with them.
  • Exposure to a diversity of thought. Members should be able to argue for what they are passionate about; moreover, the society should act as a central hub for criticism and argument on campus.
  • Strong social engagement. To provide various and regular socials so that the society offers everything needed to have a full university experience.
  • Refinement of rhetorical ability. Facilitate the development of the vital skills and confidence to thrive in the modern world and workplace, which conventional education fails to provide.
  • A broader philosophical, legal, and political education. Encourage understanding of the civic and philosophical ideas which underpin modern social discourse; so that members can potently navigate and engage with anything concerning the human experience.
  • Attendance at debating competitions. Members should be able to attend competitions regularly for both their own personal enjoyment and to provide them with evidence of their skills to assist in their post-graduate employment prospects.

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