Otago University Debating Society

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The Otago University Debating Society (OUDS) was established in June 1878 and is the oldest society of the University of Otago,[1][2][3] the first university to be founded in New Zealand. Echoing trends in Australia and the United States (the University of Sydney Union was founded in 1874 and Harvard's debating union in 1880), in the latter decades of the nineteenth century debating was seen as an important talent for New Zealand's thought leaders,[4][5] and was one of the three sports in the New Zealand University Games from 1902.

Prominent members of OUDS during its early years included Alfred Richard Barclay (one of its first vice-presidents),[6] William Downie Stewart, Jr. (1898–1900),[7] Harry Bedford (1900–1901)[8] who as a 25-year-old policial novice entered Parliament in 1902 with the highest individual vote that had ever been recorded in New Zealand,[9] John Callan (who won the Joynt Challenge Scroll in 1905)[10] and Ossie Mazengarb (c.1910).[11]

OUDS is one of the five societies in the New Zealand Universities Debating Council,[12] through which members compete in domestic, national and international tournaments. In conjunction with members from the Otago University Rugby Club, OUDS members formed the Otago University Students' Association (OUSA) in 1890 because it felt that university students needed strong representation. OUSA has become a strong advocate for student rights.


Bluff Cup[edit]

The Bluff Cup is the weekly internal tournament held between teams of debaters at OUDS. Each team name is based on a South Island locality. The Bluff Cup itself was donated in 1988 by the team that won the OUDS championship in that year, Team Bluff. In 2016 Nathaniel Brown, Grace Belworthy and Emily Williams won the final.

University Games[edit]

University Games (also known as "Easters") is the first national debating tournament of the year, competing for the Officer's Cup.[13] OUDS has been a regular competitor at the tournament (usually sending the maximum of five teams) ever since the first event in 1902.[14] The tournament is held in the first mid-semester break. Teams of two speakers are given five minutes' preparation time. University Games 2010 was held in Invercargil.[15][16]


Claytons is an amateur tournament for debaters who have not spoken at more than two national tournaments. It is held annually between OUDS and the University of Canterbury Debating Society and has sometimes included teams from Waikato University (as in 2011). Traditionally Otago and Canterbury alternate as hosts of the event with adjudicators from other University debating societies, such as Victoria, travelling to adjudicate debates at Claytons for the purpose of accrediting trainee adjudicators.

Teams of three speakers are given 30 minutes preparation time before each debate. A round of debates is held in a pool format and teams with the best records in terms of wins and speaker points from those debates advance to the semi-finals and finals of the tournament. The 2006 competition, hosted by OUDS was in Waimate, South Canterbury and was won by a team from Canterbury. The 2007 tournament, held in Christchurch, was won by Otago. In more recent history Otago won the 2011 and 2012 tournaments also held in Waimate. Both of these were Otago-Otago finals. In 2013 Canterbury won the Claytons final in a 5-4 split decision which gave rise to the Goodall paradox.

In 2014, 2015 and 2016 Claytons has been healed at the Raincliff Anglican Youth Camp. In all three of these years Otago-Otago finals occurred.

As a tournament Claytons is noted for its unique social nature compared to other debating tournaments held in New Zealand. Participating debaters socialise in the same common area and sleep in the same living quarters over the entire tournament. At other tournaments, teams from different societies are often housed in different hotel rooms and do not have a focal social commons. Claytons is also unique in that it takes place at a scout camp. Debates are held in sleeping rooms, the main room and outside.

Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championships[edit]

The Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championships more commonly known as "Australs" is a week-long competition held in the break between university semesters. Debates are held over a range of international topics. Australs follows a traditional debating format: three team members with eight preliminary rounds. Topics are impromptu with half an hour of preparation time allowed.

The 2010 Australs was hosted by the University of Auckland Debating Society. OUDS sent seven teams and six adjudicators. William Chisholm was a grand final adjudicator.[17] In 2011 Australs was held in South Korea. Otago sent two teams and three adjudicators. The Otago One team (Purdon, Bunn, Hunt) broke in 15th place to the double-octo finals. In 2012 Otago sent five teams and four adjudicators to Australs hosted by Victoria University of Wellington.

In 2013 the Otago University Debating Society was successful in a bid to host the 2014 Australs.[18]

Joynt Scroll[edit]

Joynt Scroll (otherwise known as New Zealand University Prepared Debating Championships or "Winters") is a three team member fully prepared debating competition. Joynt Scroll is New Zealand's oldest and most respected national university debating tournament, and is New Zealand's second oldest sporting competition. In 2011 the Otago One team (Kieran Bunn, William Cheyne and Paul Hunt) made it to the semi-finals of the competition, only to be defeated by the eventual winners, Victoria Two. William Cheyne was named as Captain of the NZ Prepared Debating team (an honorary team made up of the best speakers of the tournament) that year. In 2012 Otago One (Nicholas Gavey, Kieran Bunn, Paul Hunt) finished as runners up.[19] In 2013, Otago One once more reached the semifinals at Joynt Scroll 2013 (Patrick Dawson, Kieran Bunn and John Brinsley-Pirie),[20] with speaker Kieran Bunn named as best speaker of the tournament and John Brinsley-Pirie named as 1st reserve to the New Zealand Team. In 2015, Otago One (Alice Sowry, John Brinsley-Pirie and Jamie Tocher) once again made the final. At the 2016 Otago Joynt Scroll (Hosted by the University of Canterbury) One (Paul Hunt, Joe Ascroft and Jamie Tocher) again made the final and lost to the University of Auckland. Joe Ascroft was chosen as second reserve and Jamie Tocher chosen as first reserve for the championship team.

World Universities Debating Championship[edit]

OUDS has sent teams to the World Universities Debating Championship. In 2013 Otago sent three teams, all of whom 'broke' or qualified, for the 48 team knock out rounds. The Otago A team of Alec Dawson and Kieran Bunn made it into the top four teams and competed in the grand final (ultimately won by the Monash B team). In the 2014 Worlds in Chennai, Otago sent two teams, once again breaking both teams into the knock out rounds. Unfortunately both teams were knocked out in the octo-finals. Otago University has traditionally been very supportive of the OUDS WUDC campaigns.[21][22]

OUDS Executive[edit]

OUDS has a ten-person executive composed of the President, Vice President, Treasurer, Sectary, Development Officer (Senior), Development Officer (Junior/ First year) Social Officer, Equity Officer, Publicity and Sponshership Officer and Schools Officer. An additional Women's portfolio also exists.

The current President of the society is: Joe Ascroft

Past Presidents include: Alice Sowry (2016), Katarina Schwarz (2015), John Brinsley-Pirie (2014), Paul Hunt (2012–13), Louis Chambers (2010–11) and William Chisholm (2009).

OUDS Alumni[edit]

1988 OUDS members

Rhodes Scholars[edit]

OUDS alumni include a number of Otago University's Rhodes Scholars who have also held executive positions in the society. Recent OUDS recipients of the award include:

  • Damen Ward, Rhodes Scholar 1999.
  • Sally McKechnie, Rhodes Scholar 2000[27]
  • Chris Curran, Rhodes Scholar 2001 [28]
  • Rachel Carrell, Rhodes Scholar 2002[29]
  • Holly Walker, Rhodes Scholar 2007[30]
  • Louis Chambers, Rhodes Scholar 2012, president of OUDS 2010/2011 [31][32]


OUDS is financially supported by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Otago, Gallaway Cook Allan Lawyers and the Faculty of Law at the University of Otago.

Dunedin Schools Debating[edit]

Dunedin Schools Debating is an organisation run by OUDS debaters and teachers from Dunedin secondary schools. It was established in 2013 to administer a regular high school debating competition, in both Junior (Year 9 and 10) and Senior (Years 11-13) divisions. It is the first time Dunedin school students have been able to compete in a regular debating competition.[33]

Media profile and public debates[edit]

OUDS has a long coverage relationship with the Otago Daily Times going back at least as far as 1894.[34] The ODT has recently covered public debates held by OUDS featuring high-profile speakers on controversial contemporary issues. These include debates about mining and deep-sea oil drilling in New Zealand[35][36] and alcohol age legislation.[37]

OUDS has been featured regularly in the Otago University student magazine, Critic (magazine), since the magazines inception in 1925. From 2010–2011 Critic had a regular feature column called "Debatable" where two writers would argue the affirming or negative case on a moot.[38]


  1. ^ The Otago University Review: A History of the Otago University During its Minority. Otago University. 1893. p. 43. Of all the institutions now existing in connection with our College the oldest is the Debating Society.... the centre of the University life, from which radiated the social intercourse of the students 
  2. ^ William Parker Morrell (1969). The University of Otago, a Centennial History. Dunedin: University of Otago Press. 
  3. ^ Elworthy, Sam. Ritual song of defiance: a social history of students at the University of Otago (1990) (ISBN 978-0473008994) (The Otago University Debating Society proved to be one of the most energetic student organizations over the next forty years.")
  4. ^ "Mr Bathgate and Mr Reynolds as ministers". Otago Daily Times (3352). 2 November 1872. p. 5. 
  5. ^ Bettina Kaiser (2008). "Collegiate Debating Societies in New Zealand: The Role of Discourse in an Inter-Colonial Setting, 1878–1902 (PhD Thesis)" (PDF). University of Canterbury. pp. 100–143.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  6. ^ "In the Public Eye". New Zealand Illustrated Magazine. 1 July 1901. p. 739. 
  7. ^ Stephanie Dale. "Stewart, William Downie". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  8. ^ "A Promising Career". Hawera & Normanby Star. XLII (7617). 1 December 1902. p. 2. 
  9. ^ Michael Gill. "Bedford, Harry Dodgshun". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  10. ^ P J Downey. "Callan, John Bartholomew". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  11. ^ G P Barton. "Mazengarb, Oswald Chettle". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  12. ^ "Who We Are". New Zealand Universities Debating Council. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  13. ^ "Easters". University of Auckland Debating Society. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  14. ^ "The First University Tournament". Evening Post. LXIII (64). 15 March 1902. p. 4. 
  15. ^ 2010 Uni Games, The Southland Times, 14 April 2010 ("The 2010 Uni Games, held in Invercargill from April 14 to 16"; also slide 18 shows Otago debate team member Kurt Purdon)
  16. ^ Victoria beats Otago in debating contest, The Southland Times, 16 April 2010
  17. ^ "Tournament Summary". Australasian Intervarsity Debating 2010. University of Auckland. 12 July 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 
  18. ^ http://www.odt.co.nz/campus/university-otago/269460/university-host-big-debating-event
  19. ^ "Victoria Wins Joynt Scroll Debating" University Sport website.
  20. ^ http://www.odt.co.nz/campus/university-otago/273816/further-successes-debating-society
  21. ^ "Otago Law Students Impressive at World Universities Debating Societies Championship" - Otago Faculty of Law http://www.otago.ac.nz/law/news/otago040805.html
  22. ^ "Otago debaters in world top four" - Otago Daily Times 5 Jan 2013 http://www.odt.co.nz/campus/university-otago/241473/otago-debaters-world-top-four
  23. ^ Laws, Michael (1998). The Demon Profession. HarperCollins New Zealand. ISBN 1-86950-257-4. 
  24. ^ Michael Laws (2 August 2010). "Carter's Goff gaffe exposes Labour leadership vacuum". The Sunday Star-Times. 
  25. ^ "Green Party candidate profile: Holly Walker". Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  26. ^ "AtoJs Online — Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives — 1898 Session I — E-07 EDUCATION: THE UNIVERSITY OF OTAGO". Atojs.natlib.govt.nz. Retrieved 2013-05-28. 
  27. ^ http://www.otago.ac.nz/otagomagazine/otago004400.pdf
  28. ^ "Chris Curran, University of Otago, New Zealand". Otago.ac.nz. Retrieved 2013-05-28. 
  29. ^ "'Dream job' keeps University of Otago graduate in UK | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand & International News". Odt.co.nz. 2012-05-28. Retrieved 2013-05-28. 
  30. ^ "Rhodes Scholar class of 2007 - The Rhodes Scholarships". Rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk. 2013-01-28. Retrieved 2013-05-28. 
  31. ^ 'Two Otago Rhodes Scholars' - Otago Daily Times http://www.odt.co.nz/campus/university-otago/233981/two-otago-rhodes-scholars
  32. ^ Rhodes Scholarship Trust Profile - http://www.rhodesscholarshiptrust.com/rhodes-scholars-elect-class-of-2013/louis-chambers
  33. ^ "Organisation to Revive Secondary School Debates | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand & International News". Odt.co.nz. 2013-02-23. Retrieved 2014-02-23. 
  34. ^ "Papers Past — Otago Daily Times — 22 September 1894 — OTAGO UNIVERSITY DEBATING SOCIETY". Paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. Retrieved 2013-05-28. 
  35. ^ "Debate on merits of mining attracts 200 | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand & International News". Odt.co.nz. 2011-05-26. Retrieved 2013-05-28. 
  36. ^ "Drill Baby Drill – debate tonight – David Clark – Dunedin North". Davidclark.org.nz. 2011-05-25. Retrieved 2013-05-28. 
  37. ^ "Split drinking age proposal debated | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand & International News". Odt.co.nz. 2012-07-26. Retrieved 2013-05-28. 
  38. ^ "Debatable - Columns | Critic Te Arohi". Critic.co.nz. Retrieved 2013-05-28. 

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