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Encyclopedia > Durham Union Society
Durham Union Society
Image:DUS logo.jpg
Free Speech Since 1842
Established 1842
Institution Durham University
President Paul Robertson
Location Palace Green, Durham, England
Members 3000 in residence, 24000 worldwide
Homepage DUS homepage

The Durham Union Society is a debating society founded in 1842 by the students of the University of Durham. Commonly referred to as the DUS or The Durham Union, it is the university's oldest and largest society with over 3000 members. Until 1899, when the DSU was founded, the society acted as the students' union. Image File history File links DUS_logo. ... 1842 was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ... Durham University is a university in England. ... Palace Green is a small area of grass in the centre of Durham in England, flanked by Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle, collectively a UNESCO World Heritage Site. ... Durham (IPA: locally, in RP) is a small city and main settlement of the City of Durham district of County Durham in North East England. ... Royal motto (French): Dieu et mon droit (Translated: God and my right) Englands location (dark green) within the United Kingdom (light green), with the Republic of Ireland (blue) to its west Languages None official English de facto Capital None official London de facto Largest city London Area – Total Ranked... Debate is a formalized system of (usually) logical argument. ... Human relationships within an ethnically diverse society. ... Durham University is a university in England. ... The Durham Students Union is a body, set up as the Durham Colleges Students’ Representative Council in 1899 and renamed in 1969, with the intention of representing and providing welfare and services for the students of the University of Durham in Durham, England. ...


DUS today

The Union Society maintains offices and its debating chamber on the Palace Green World Heritage Site, as well as its own members' club and bar facilities nearby on the Bailey. It hosts weekly debates featuring prominent external speakers, as well as inviting address speakers and holding social events. Recent speakers include the actress Imelda Staunton, BBC Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine, radio and television personality Nicholas Parsons, former Chief Inspector of Schools and current Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education and Skills David Bell, Boris Johnson MP, film critic Barry Norman, Rocky Horror writer and Crystal Maze presenter Richard O'Brien, food critic Michael Winner and Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Shirley Williams. Palace Green is a small area of grass in the centre of Durham in England, flanked by Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle, collectively a UNESCO World Heritage Site. ... A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a specific site (such as a forest, mountain range, lake, desert, building, complex, or city) that has been nominated, and confirmed, for inclusion on the list maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. ... The Bailey is a street in Durham so-named because of its situation in relation to the Norman motte and bailey-style castle. ... Imelda Staunton as Vera Drake Imelda Mary Philomena Bernadette Staunton OBE (born on January 9, 1956 in London) is an Academy Award nominated English actress of Irish Catholic descent. ... BBC Radio 2 is one of the BBCs national radio stations and is the most popular station in the UK. It broadcasts throughout the UK on FM radio between 88 and 91 MHz from its studios in Western House, adjacent to Broadcasting House in central London. ... Jeremy Vine (born May 17, 1965, Epsom, England) is a current affairs presenter on BBC radio and television. ... Christopher Nicholas Parsons OBE, normally known as Nicholas Parsons (born October 10, 1923 often misquoted as 1928) is a British actor, radio and television presenter. ... In the United Kingdom, the non-political civil service head of a government department, as distinct from the political Secretary of State to whom he or she reports. ... The Department for Education and Skills is a department in the United Kingdom government created in 2001. ... Please refer to David Bell (baseball) for the Major League Baseball player. ... Boris Johnson Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (born 19 June 1964 in New York City, USA), better known as Boris Johnson (and occasionally as Bo-Jo within the UK tabloid press) is a British Conservative politician, journalist and historian, with a distinctive scatty and eccentric public persona. ... Barry Norman (b. ... Richard OBrien Richard OBrien (born Richard Timothy Smith on March 25, 1942 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK) is a writer and performer. ... Michael Winner (born October 30, 1935 in London, England) is a British film director and producer. ... The Baroness Williams of Crosby Shirley Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby, PC (born July 27, 1930), is a British politician. ...

The social highlight of the year is the Annual Ball held in Michaelmas term. The programme varies, but usually consists of champagne reception, dinner, music, and after dinner dancing. Michaelmas (pronounced ) or the Feast of Ss. ...

The Durham Union Society is a major force in competitive debating and regularly represents Durham at intervarsity competitions around the UK, at the European Universities Debating Championship and World Universities Debating Championship. It hosted the European Universities Debating Championship in 2004, winning the competition in the next year at University College Cork, Ireland and reaching the final in 2006 at the Berlin Debating Union. The Union Society also hosts the Durham intervarsity competition in November, and an Open Pairs Competition in June. Over two hundred sixth-formers compete at the Durham schools competition every March. The European Universities Debating Championship (colloquially known as Euros or Europeans) is a regional equivalent to the World Universities Debating Championship (Worlds) held in British Parliamentary style. ... The World Universities Debating Championship (WUDC) is the largest debating tournament, and one of the largest annual international student events in the world. ... The European Universities Debating Championship (colloquially known as Euros or Europeans) is a regional equivalent to the World Universities Debating Championship (Worlds) held in British Parliamentary style. ... 2004 (MMIV) was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... University College Cork - National University of Ireland, Cork - or more commonly University College Cork (UCC) - is a constituent university of the National University of Ireland located in Cork City. ...


Since its foundation in 1842, the Union has always been the central forum for debate in the University. The Union provides a platform for free speech and has always fiercely guarded its independence. It remains an important complement to college life. A student society in the University and one of the oldest in the world, the Union has a distinguished and exciting history.

1842: The Beginning

The first debates were held in the reading rooms of Hatfield Hall and UniversityCollege, but in 1872 the Society moved to what is now the Palace Green library, where the University’s first purpose-built debating chamber was established. In 1977 the debating chamber moved across Palace Green to the PembertonBuilding, which sits in the shadow of the Cathedral.

1914: Controversy

The Union has always had a taste for controversy. In 1856 it openly endorsed slavery, and in 1914 the House pushed for women to have the vote, 14 years before suffrage was granted. Today, the Union still tackles contentious ideas and debates the issues that will become important in the future.

1965: More than just a debating society

The Society is the central place for students from all colleges to meet. 24, which is 40 years old this year, boasts a beer garden overlooking the river, a large reading room, a snooker room and a large en-suite guest room available to any member, any time.

2005: The present day

These unrivalled facilities mean that the Union not only debates the hottest issues with leading public figures, but also organises some of the University’s biggest and best social events. We are world leaders on the debating circuit. In April, Erin O'Brien and Bob Nimmo won the European Universities' Debating Championship in Cork. The Union goes on...


There are two types of membership:

  • Life Membership
  • Annual Membership

On payment of a second annual membership fee, an annual member becomes a member for life.

Life Members of the society are given a unique number and have their names inscribed in the Life Members' Books (of which there are continuous records dating back to at least 1911). Next to the name and number of every Life Member is his or her college and the name of the President and Secretary when he or she joined.

Administrative Structure

General Committee

The main committee in the Society is the General Committee. To gain membership of the General Committee in the first instance, a member must be elected to one of the various sub-committees in the Society:

  • House Committee (to organise the logistics of Friday night debates. Chair - Steward)
  • Consultative Committee (composed of College Secretaries. Chair - Secretary)
  • Sponsorship Committee (to raise money for the Society. Chair - Sponsorship Secretary)
  • Social Committee (to organise social events. Chair - Social Secretary)
  • Debates Committee (to organise debating activities. Chair - Tournament Secretary)

At the start of the academic year, elections take place for all these sub-committees by single transferable vote (STV) system. This STV ballot for the Australian Senate illustrates group voting tickets. ... STV will be the new name of the ITV channel in northern and central Scotland. ...

Once a member of the General Committee, an individual can be nominated to become an officer of the Society.

There is an additional sub-committee:

  • Rules Committee (to oversee elections)

However, to gain membership of this sub-committee, the candidate must already be a present or past officer or a present member of another sub-committee. The committee is chaired by the Returning Officer. All Past Presidents in residence and any Presidents-Elect are ex officio members of the committee.

Conventions of the House

The following, among others, are conventions of the Durham Union Society (4 and 6 are no longer observed):

1. The President shall enter the Chamber last and leave it first.

2. The President shall sit in the Chair, the Secretary at the Secretary's Table, the Treasurer on the President's immediate right, the Custodian on the President's immediate left. All the other officers shall be arranged around these officers, most senior next to the Treasurer and Custodian.

3. All speeches shall be addressed to the Chair.

4. A speaker wishing to make a point of order or point of information shall rise with their head covered.

5. A speaker will give way on a point of order.

6. Members of the House shall be addressed by a speaker as "my Honourable friend" if speaking for the same side, or "the Honourable lady/gentleman" if speaking for the opposing side as the present speaker. The exception to this is that Standing Committee Officers present and past are always addressed as "Right Honourable".

7. Voting is by acclamation in the first instance and, if this fails to yield a decisive result, then by division.

8. Mobile telephones and electronic equipment shall be turned off prior to entry into the Chamber.

Reciprocal relations

The Union's members enjoy reciprocal relations with and use of facilities at the Oxford Union, Cambridge Union, Edinburgh Union, the University Philosophical Society of University College Dublin (UCD Phil) and the College Historical Society of Trinity College Dublin (TCD Hist). Oxford Union The Oxford Union Society, commonly referred to simply as the Oxford Union, is a private debating society in the city of Oxford, whose membership is drawn primarily but not exclusively from the University of Oxford. ... The Cambridge Union Society, commonly referred to simply as the Cambridge Union, is one of the largest student societies at the University of Cambridge and one of the oldest in the world. ... The University Philosophical Society (commonly known as The Phil) was founded in 1853, although it claims two predecessor societies. ... See College Historical Society (Trinity College, Dublin) for the Society founded in 1770. ...

Famous alumni

The Right Honourable Marjorie Mo Mowlam (September 18, 1949 - August 19, 2005) was a British politician, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Labour MP. Her personal charisma, reputation for plain speaking and successful fight against a brain tumour led her to be perceived by many as one of... The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is the British cabinet minister who has responsibility for the government of Northern Ireland. ... Crispin Jeremy Rupert Blunt (born 15 July 1960) is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Reigate. ... Edward Julian Egerton Leigh (born 20 July 1950) is a politician in the United Kingdom. ... Giles Ramsay is founding Artistic Director of the Trident Theatre and is an award-winning dramatist, having won the Soho Theatres Westminster Prize for his play Shall We Go to the Alhambra? He is also co-author of Only as Multiple, a stage adaptation of the poetry of Fernando... Chief of the General Staff (CGS) has been the title of the professional head of the British Army since 1964. ... Gabby Logan (nee Yorath, April 24, 1974) is a British television presenter. ...

External links

  • Durham Union Society
University of Durham Logo Durham University
About Durham University
Main Entry | Academic dress | People | Students' Union | Union (debating) Society | Athletic Union
Colleges of Durham University
Collingwood | George Stephenson | Grey | Hatfield | John Snow | Josephine Butler | St Aidan's | St Chad's | St Cuthbert's Society | St Hild and St Bede | St John's | St Mary's | Trevelyan | University | Ushaw | Ustinov | Van Mildert

  Results from FactBites:
Cambridge Union Society - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1788 words)
The Cambridge Union Society, commonly referred to simply as the Cambridge Union, is a private debating society in Cambridge, England and is the largest society at the University of Cambridge.
The Cambridge Union was founded on February 13th, 1815 as a union of three debating societies and quickly rose to prominence in University life.
The society is not open to the general public; however, members are often able to bring guests to certain functions and some events are made available to the public for free or through the purchase of a ticket.
  More results at FactBites »



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