Oxford and BPP students reach final of World Debating Championships – but Sydney takes crown

Students from two UK universities made the final of the 2015 World Universities Debating Championships in Malaysia.

The annual tournament is one of the largest student events in the world. Patrick Bateman and Natasha Rachman of Oxford University and Michael O’Dwyer and Steven Rajavinothan of BPP faced up against students from Sydney and Harvard in the four-way final, debating 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.”

The team from Sydney eventually emerged victorious.

Entrants contested nine debates in the preliminary rounds, arguing on topics including Syria, global warming and freedom of movement.

BPP student and Warwick graduate Rajavinothan, who is due to start a training contract at Herbert Smith Freehills, said: “The process was very tough. “Both of us had debated throughout our undergraduate degrees at other universities so a lot of the groundwork was laid in those years. We put a lot of time in prior to the competition to prepare different topics and practice generating arguments as a team.”

Fellow team member O’Dwyer, who completed an undergraduate degree at University College Dublin and has a training contract at Slaughter and May lined up, added: “We’re delighted it went so well, although we do still have a sense of ‘what might have been’ had we managed to convince one more judge for that extra vote in the final. 

“Not many people will ever get the chance to call themselves world champions at anything so to have won would’ve been pretty special but we’re delighted with how well we did.”

Teams from Oxford won the championship in 2008 and 2009, the last time that representatives of a UK university triumphed.

See also