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Represented Otago at World Universities Debating Championship 

Friday 3 February 2023 10:03am

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Otago students taking in the sights in Madrid recently while competing in the World Universities Debating Championship.

Competing in the World Universities Debating Championship was a great way to get some new perspectives on the world, says the president of the Otago University Debate Society, Jaiden Tucker.

Three teams, Otago A: Jaiden Tucker and Seth Whittington, Otago B: Colby Allen and Amelia Mance, and Otago C: Amber Spence and Ella Taylor, from the University of Otago competed in the event held in Madrid in late December and early January. Students Josh Meikle, Isaac Heron and Patrick-Kees Lawn attended as judges. 

While none of the three teams made it through to the final round, Tucker says it was “really exciting” to take part.

“It was really nice to just make friends with people from a lot of different universities around the world. The social connections you make, that’s probably the best part of the whole thing.”

Tucker, who is completing a BA in politics and a BLaw, with honours, says 263 teams of two took part, while another 200 students attended to judge the competitions.

The championship is the largest debating event a university student can hope to compete in, and while teams do not need to qualify for it, attendance is seen as a “natural progression” after having done well during domestic competitions, he says.

“We had two major New Zealand tournaments in 2022, the Joynt Scroll which is the oldest debate competition, since, like, 1905. And then we had the Officers Cup.”

Otago won the Joynt Scroll tournament and came second while hosting the Officers Cup.

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Teams have been representing Otago at the annual event for about 30 years.

The world championship has been running for about 40 years, and Otago has sent teams to compete “pretty consistently” for the last 30 years.

Three teams from the University of Auckland and one from Victoria University of Wellington also attended the competition.

A wide range of topics were debated, including intellectual property law, comparisons between data journalism and qualitative journalism and questions about developmental politics and international relations.

“It’s really interesting to hear a lot of interesting perspectives on the world, things that you’ve never considered,” Tucker says.

Teams were given 15 minutes to prepare their arguments, and the debate usually took about an hour, with four teams each putting forward their argument.

It was the first time Tucker had attended the event, and he was happy with how his team went against prestigious schools such as Princeton, Stanford, Yale and Cambridge “we were very close [in points], which was nice”.

Tucker says anyone can try out to be a part of the Otago University Debate Society and the society holds club nights every Tuesday at 6pm.

-Kōrero by internal communications adviser, Koren Allpress