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.