UCC hosts world debating competition


THE SETTING may be academic but the benefits are practical as more than 1,000 visiting delegates are giving an estimated €2 million boost to the Cork economy this new year by attending the 29th World Universities Debating Championships at University College Cork (UCC).

Jointly hosted by UCC’s Law and Philosophical Societies, the event is the largest academic competition in the world, with the delegates coming from 176 educational institutions spread across some 40 countries including the US, Australia, China, Japan and Korea.

Mark Collins, director of registration and communications for the event, told The Irish Times it was a tremendous honour for UCC to be selected to host the championships, although it also means the university cannot enter any teams itself in the competition.

“University College Cork was selected to host the competition by the World Universities Debating Council at Vancouver in Canada in 2006 and then that decision was ratified last year at Bangkok in Thailand – so it’s a great honour,” Mr Collins said.

UCC, which won the event back in 1986, previously hosted the competition in 1995 but it was a much smaller event back then with about 150 teams participating compared with this year’s entry of 308 teams.

The decision to hold the competition over the Christmas/new year’s break stems from the fact that it is the only time in the year when universities in both the northern and southern hemisphere are on holidays simultaneously, he explained.

While UCC is not participating this year, Ireland is well-represented with six teams from University College Dublin, six from Trinity, three from NUI Galway, two from DCU and two from UL. They are all bidding to be crowned world universities debating champions.

The competition involves nine preliminary rounds, and at any one time, there are some 78 debates going on at UCC before the top 32 teams make it through to the knockout stages, with four teams reaching the final at Cork City Hall on January 3rd.

The winners will be presented with a Cavan Crystal replica of the Sam Maguire Cup to mark their success, while there will also be prizes for the runners-up. The competition will be judged by a panel drawn from more than 300 adjudicators.

Teams only learn what the motion is 15 minutes before competition, with yesterday’s participants being asked to debate the compatibility of economic and environmental policies and whether schools in Northern Ireland should be segregated.

Cork Chamber of Commerce chief executive Conor Healy warmly welcomed UCC’s successful bid to host the competition. In addition to bringing in revenue, it helped raise Cork’s profile as a conference destination, he said. “Education tourism would generally be fairly low at this time of year, so it’s a welcome boost to the economy in that sense. But it’s also of benefit in raising the profile internationally of UCC and Cork as a conference destination and that’s very positive for the region,” he added.