The Oxford A team reached the Grand Final of the 2015 World University Debating Championships, held this year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The tournament is the world’s largest debating competition, and uses the British parliamentary debating format. Oxford entered 4 teams into the Open category for native English speakers, alongside 367 other teams.
However, Oxford did not manage to win, losing to the Sydney A team in a debate on the motion, “This House believes that humanitarian organisations should, and should be allowed to, give funding, resources or services to illegal armed groups when this is made a condition for access to vulnerable civilians.” BPP A and Harvard A were the other teams Oxford faced off against in the final.
Nonetheless, Oxford A had to get through 9 preliminary rounds and 4 knockout rounds in order to reach the final, arguing on topics ranging from Syria to mental illness. This was better than in the last two years, when the furthest Oxford reached was the semi-finals.
Oxford also performed well in the individual speaker rankings, with the two members of Oxford A, Patrick Bateman and Tasha Rachman, coming 10th and 16th respectively. Oxford B debater Nat Ware matched Rachman in the speaker rankings, also coming 16th, whilst his partner, Fergus Peace, came 26th.
Oxford finalist Tasha Rachman was pleased with Oxford’s performance, saying, “As a point of institutional pride, I would have liked to win it for Oxford but, on a personal note, the funny thing is that being knocked out of the semis is gutting but being a grand finalist and losing is totally fine. I am jubilant. My only note of regret is that Cambridge A was, in my opinion, knocked out far too soon, as they are both brilliant debaters and deserved, at the very least, to be in the Grand Final.
“The tournament was, as ever, a delight. The previous WUDC in Chennai had serious logistical issues that meant that many people do not look back on it fondly. On a personal note, I have enjoyed every WUDC that I have been at, because ultimately debating is far more than a hobby for me, it is an opportunity to hang out with a group of people whom I adore (the other Oxford debaters) and a wider community filled with brilliant, clever and funny people. This tournament was no exception.”
The other Oxford finalist, Patrick Bateman, ironically an alumnus of Sydney University, echoed this statement, commenting, “The tournament was a great showcase for the Oxford Union, with three out of our four teams, along with every one of our judges, reaching the knockout stages of the competition. This is a rare achievement at Worlds, so we’re very proud of what the contingent has accomplished.
“Disappointing though it was not to win, it was simply a pleasure to represent Oxford up there with someone so profoundly talented. Sydney University’s win was a well-deserved one, and if we had to lose to anyone, I’m glad it was to my alma mater!”
Debaters at Sydney were of course delighted with the result, with the Director of Debates at Sydney University Union Sarah Mourney telling Cherwell, “The tournament was extremely fun. It was also incredibly exciting that we brought home the world’s trophy: it makes all the time and effort our teams put into training worthwhile! The tournament was quite a lot better run than Chennai last year, for instances the buses ferrying us around had aircon and did not have Mosquitos. All the team that made Malaysia World’s a reality were awesome and you could see how tirelessly they worked to make the tournament a spectacular experience.”