The Durham Union is Durham University’s oldest and largest student society. Founded in 1842, we have over 3,000 active undergraduate and postgraduate members and an alumni of more than 10,000 life-members.

The Union plays a unique role in the collegiate structure of Durham, bringing together students from across the university to socialise and network in a way no other student society can.

What We Do

The Union was founded to stimulate debate on pertinent issues, but today it takes on a much bigger role in Durham life.

We host a diverse range of events in our Debating Chamber and bar: from free Members’ socials, and headline balls, to debates and addresses from exceptional speakers, to training for our world-class competitive debating squad.

Celebrity Addresses

The Union is not just for politicians. Throughout the week, alongside our debates, the Union also holds addresses by a diverse range of engaging individuals, from a wide range of fields, with past speakers including: Michael Palin, Jeremy Irons, Robert Winston, Imelda Staunton, Jeremy Vine, Maggie Smith, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Patrick Stewart, Eni Aluko, Bernard Hill & Anton Du Beke.

Our intimate chamber means you are often only a few feet away from some of the most incredible people, a potentially once in a lifetime experience. Addresses either take the form of guest lectures or fireside chats, for a more relaxed and conversational approach.

Each address has a question and answer session and all events have a drinks reception in our Reading Room at 24 North Bailey Club – where you can chat to the speakers and other members to keep the discussion going.

Friday Night Debates

The Union holds a star-studded debate on a major national or global issue once a week on a Friday during term-time. Our debates often attract significant attention and have recently been reported on in the Guardian, the Times, the Telegraph and the Independent.

For these debates we consult with our members to choose a wide range of engaging topics, from commercialisation in sport to foreign policy. Past speakers include: Boris Johnson, Nick Clegg, Theresa May, Vince Cable, Shami Chakrabarti, John Bercow, David Davis, Caroline Lucas, Sir Graham Brady, Michael Hesseltine, Ted Heath, Jon Snow & Andrew Marr.

Our debates provide our members a chance to have your say, speaking alongside guest speakers, challenging them through points of information, floor speeches, and questions, as well as voting at the end.

Members’ Socials

The Union hosts a variety of social events for members and non-members alike. The social highlight of the year is the annual Ball held in Michaelmas Term. The programme for the evening varies, but usually consists of a champagne reception, dinner, music, and after dinner dancing. The Union also holds members only socials, with recent events including a ‘Halloween Social’, ‘American Election Social’, ‘Chinese New Year Social’ and ‘Valentines Social’.

Pre-event Dinners

Prior to Addresses and our Friday Night Debates the Union Society treats the guest speakers to a three-course dinner, either in lounge suit (before addresses and panel discussions) or black-tie (before our debates), with attendance open to both members and non-members. Find out more here.