Welcome to the Durham Union Society

A warm welcome to Durham for both new and returning students alike. For freshers, this term will represent the opening of a new chapter in your lives. I remember well the mix of emotions that accompany your first few weeks at university. Just remember that everyone is in the same boat and there are far more daunting cities than Durham!

Many freshers coming to Durham for the first time will have heard of the Union, others will have not. Whatever your subject and whatever your interests we are your indispensable accompaniment to Durham life.

Unique to Oxford, Cambridge and Durham, the Union Society fulfils several different functions. First and foremost we provide students with the opportunity to meet, listen to and engage with a diverse range of public figures. In the past we have hosted speakers from sportsman Jonathan Edwards to scientist Robert Winston to actress Imelda Staunton.

We also host debates every Friday night, with celebrity speakers coming up to Durham to debate the pressing issues of the day. In addition we represent the university in competitive student debating and provide the chance for students to hone their skills in the art of debating and public speaking in our weekly debate training sessions.

Finally we provide an important university wide social environment, independent of the colleges. We have our very own bar and clubhouse 24 North Bailey, conveniently located next to the cathedral in the centre of Durham. We host regular balls and socials, widely regarded as amongst the best in Durham.

With so much on offer, why not sign up for membership today? Over 800 freshers each year choose to do so, making us by far the largest student society in Durham. Membership entitles you to partake in as much or as little of the the above as you choose and is a sound investment in your three year university career. In addition we have reciprocal relations with both the Oxford and Cambridge Union and our members enjoy full access to their exciting itinerary of events.

As for this term, it is shaping up to being one of the best of recent times. Our atmospheric debating chamber on Palace Green will be graced by such notaries as Jeremy Vine, Caroline Lucas and Peter Hitchens. We have no less than four foreign ambassadors coming to visit us this term and ten current or former MPs and peers. For the scientists amongst you, a former Astronomer Royal and for the lawyers a justice of the Supreme Court. It all kicks off on Monday 10th October, with our first debate of the year: 'This House believes that the nation state is an outdated concept.' A timely motion in light of recent events. The first debate is open to all, so if you are unsure, come and see what we do before you buy membership.

That is all before I mention socials. Our blue ribbon event of the year, the Michaelmas Ball, is coming up on the 2nd of November, a three course meal and live entertainment, all in the beautiful surroundings of Beamish Hall. To get involved in the Union social life come and join us in 24s for the Freshers' social right at the start of term.  Later on will come the Halloween, US Election Night and Christmas socials all of which are not to miss - being completely free for members.

For more information before you arrive in Durham, please explore the pages of this website which also includes an online portal for purchasing membership. Otherwise do look out for our freshers pack (including a sign up form) which should arrive in the post during the last week of September. Also look out for our stand at the freshers fair, where you will be able to collect membership cards and pick up a term card, with full details of upcoming events. If you haven't already, like us on Facebook to keep up to date with upcoming events.

Once again, I look forward to welcoming you (back) to Durham. The Union has an office next to the debating chamber, upstairs in the Pemberton Building, next to the café on Palace Green. Myself or our office manager, Sharon, are usually there from 9-5 on weekdays. Any queries, please do not hesitate to come in and have a chat.



Click here to view this term's events.


Upcoming Events

This Week at the Union

Monday, 28th November: Professor Richard Carwardine Address

The Chamber, Palace Green, from 8.30 p.m.

Professor Richard Carwardine is the current President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford and a respected scholar on 19th Century America. His biography of Abraham Lincoln won the Lincoln Prize in 2004.

In the aftermath of a contentious US presidential election, Professor Carwardine will be discussing both modern and historical cultural wars in the US.


Tuesday, 29th November: Chinese Diplomatic Address

Elvet Riverside 140, from 8.30 p.m.

In addition to our published termly schedule, the Union is delighted to announce that we will be hosting an address form the deputy head of mission at the Chinese Embassy in London, Minister Zhu Qin.

Minister Zhu Qin began his diplomatic career in 1993, serving several positions in China and abroad, including Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in the United States; Minister Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission of the Chinese Embassy in South Africa and Deputy Director-General of the Department of European Affairs. 

He was appointed Deputy Head of Mission at the Chinese Embassy in the UK in September 2016.

Please note, the talk will take place in ER 140 rather than our usual venue of the Debating Chamber.


Thursday, 1st December: Palestinian Ambassador Address

The Chamber, Palace Green, from 8.30 p.m.

Also in further addition to our schedule, the Union is excited to be hosting an address from the Palestinian diplomatic representative to the UK, Professor Manuel Hassassian.

Prof. Hassassian has been the Palestinian diplomatic representative to the UK since 2005. He will address the contemporary situation in the Middle East, surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict and the war in Syria. After the talk there will be opportunity for you to address your questions to Prof. Hassassian.


Friday, 2nd December, Second Chance Charity Project Final Debate

The Chamber, Palace Green, from 8.30 p.m.


The Second Chance Debate is the culmination of an outreach project put together by the Union, Team Durham and The Cyrenians, a charity which helps people who have been socially excluded.

The unique rehabilitation project aims to empower these individuals to rebuild their confidence by teaching them how to use their own voices, through a series of training nights in debate and public speaking.

The final debate is a fantastic platform for the participants to showcase their new found confidence. Members and non-members are all welcome to watch the impressive and moving final, and lend their support to this extraordinary project.

This debate is kindly sponsored by Somerset Capital Management LLP

US Election Social

Join us on election night as the results of one of the most contentious elections of recent times are unveiled. Themed cocktails and stateside delicacies will be on offer to celebrate or commiserate the outcome.


 Clinton, Trump pick up big wins

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