Cambridge Schools

Welcome to the home of the Cambridge Union Schools Debating Competition 2018-19, one of the biggest schools debating competitions in the world!

Each year over one thousand talented debaters compete to make it to Cambridge for the tournament finals, and ultimately for the prestigious honour of being named Schools’ champion. The competition boasts excellent opportunities for young people to get to grips with speaking in public, hone their analytical skills and countless other things, all useful for later life. With University applications and interviews just around the corner for many of those participating, the Cambridge Union Schools Debating Competition is not to be missed.

Finals day is hosted in the historic Cambridge Union building. Built in 1815, the Cambridge Union is the oldest speaking Union in the world, and has a rich history of controversial debates and influential speakers. Speakers who have addressed the Union in the past include: the Dalai LamaPresident Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher. The tradition of high quality speakers continues to this day, with the Union recently hosting US Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders, President of the UK Supreme Court Baroness Hale and renowned scientist Stephen Hawking, to name but a few.

Competition Structure

The competition is divided into two stages: the Regional Rounds and Finals Day. The Regional Round will be hosted at a University or school in your area.

In each Regional Round there will be 4 debates  the standard British Parliamentary format (click here to download our guide on this style of debating). Motions for the debates will be announced 15 minutes before the start the debate and each speech will be 5 minutes long  with the first and last minuted being protected from Points of Information. Depending on the round size the teams with the most points at the end of the four rounds get the honour of being invited to the Cambridge Union to compete on Finals Day (For an explanation of the criteria used to make the decision, please see the BP debating guide).Debaters will receive feedback from experienced debaters and will know the results of the debate for the first three rounds (or two for very small round sizes). Results will not be announced for the final debate of the day until after the winning teams of the round are announced

This has three key benefits; firstly and most importantly it means more debating! Secondly, it means competitors will have an opportunity to debate against a wider variety of different teams and finally means that debaters will be judges by different adjudicators. This will allow for a wider variety of feedback from experienced debaters who will each have their own insights to add.


More details regarding the process for sending teams to Finals Day will be posted after registration has closed.

NB: The local and regional rounds may take a different format in Scotland and Ireland. Please email us for further details.

Finals Day features a mere handful of teams compared to the number who originally entered (1/16 entered teams reach finals day), and making it this far is quite an achievement. Finals Day follows a different format to the earlier rounds. There will be four rounds of debating, with points awarded depending on your position in each debate. After the first 4 rounds in which everybody competes, the 8 teams with the most points will proceed to the knockout semi-finals. After these debates, the best 2 teams in each Semi final will advance to the grand final, where one will be crowned Schools Champion!

The Cambridge Union Society

Cambridge Schools is run by members of the Cambridge Union Society. The Union dates from 1815, and has a long history of hosting Presidents, Prime Ministers, Statesmen, Celebrities and Sports Stars. The Unions weekly debates serve to engage and to challenge presumptions and prejudices. Finals day will be hosted at the Union itself, with the Grand Final held in the Union’s famous chamber.

For more infomation on the Cambridge Union and to see some Cambridge Union speaker events, visit

Contact Joy Jia, our current debating officer, at with any questions or queries.