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Competition Guide

We regularly send teams representing Cambridge to debating competitions around the UK and internationally. This is a guide on these debating competitions to answer some frequently asked questions. Frequently, questions or problems can be solved by contacting the Debating Officers at

We send teams and judges to three main types of competition: IVs, Opens and Internationals. IV (intervarsity) competitions only involve teams representing universities, Opens allow composite teams where the two speakers do not need to be at the same university (or indeed at university) and the two main Internationals are the European Universities Debating Championship (Euros) and the World Universities Debating Championship (Worlds). All Cambridge teams contain two Cambridge debaters and all competitions are run in the British Parliamentary format.

Most IVs and Opens take place at the weekend during term time. They can take place on one day (usually Saturday or Sunday) or over two days (Friday & Saturday or Saturday & Sunday). There is usually at least one competition every weekend. You can see the full calendar of debating competitions on the British Debate website. Euros usually takes place during the summer holiday and Worlds takes place over the New Year. 

All debating teams usually take part in a number of preliminary rounds, usually between three and five in number. After these rounds, the top few teams ‘break’ off and take part in knockout rounds. Aside from the debating, there are usually free socials involving free food and drink, which are the perfect way to meet debaters from other universities. Accommodation (known as ‘crash’) is also usually provided in the form of some empty floor space – you should definitely bring along your own sleeping bag. Debating competitions are casual events so you do not usually need to dress formally – just come along in what you are most comfortable wearing.

IVs and Opens are announced through the Cambridge Debating Mailing List. To be added to this list, *********** Once announced, a deadline for applications is set for people to fill in an application form. Selection is made on a number of different factors including debating and judging ability, contribution to Cambridge Debating, potential shown at workshops, and past performance at competitions. Once the deadline has passed, all applicants are contacted to tell them whether they have been selected. Worlds and Euros selections are made by an independent panel of selectors. 

We obviously cannot guarantee that you will be selected if you apply as more people may apply than there are places. However, we try as much as possible to give people opportunities to experience debating and most people who stick to the workshop programme are very likely to be selected for a debating competition if they apply regularly. We send teams to competitions most weekends, and some competitions have fewer applicants than spots available. 

All registration costs for the competition are covered by the Union. We also heavily subsidise travel costs. 

After we have selected teams and judges, we will e-mail the delegation to recommend travel a route for travel and to inform you of the details of the competition. We will also find out your crash (accommodation) requirements so that we can contact the competition’s organisers. We will nominate one member of the delegation to be in charge of the group to act as the contact point if things go wrong. 

We don’t expect anything from you in terms of debating performance – we send many debaters to competitions to gain experience to improve as speakers. However, as representatives of the Cambridge Union, we do expect you to be courteous to other speakers and to judges – do not offend other people either in or out of debates. Additionally, when travel is being organised, please turn up on time and, if you think you will be late, please contact the person in charge of travel.

A checklist of things to bring:

  • 16-25 railcard
  • money
  • paper and pens
  • (if sleeping over) a sleeping bag

If you have any problems, contact the Debating Officers through their contact e-mail address: Otherwise, enjoy the experience!

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