Tour of the Oxford Union

A new cohort of young Cherwellians has recently been given a tour of the Oxford Union. Since its foundation, Cherwell College Oxford has developed good links with the oldest student-led debating society – The Oxford Union, which enables our students to become members, despite the fact that usually, the doors of the Union are open to the undergraduates only.

The Union is steeped in history. It was founded in 1823 and is the world’s most prestigious debating society, with a reputation for bringing international guests and speakers to Oxford, hosting international figures and celebrities, the world’s most prominent individuals across politics, academia, and popular culture, including Winston Churchill, Dalai Lama, Albert Einstein, Michael Jackson, Morgan Freeman, Jordan Peterson, Stephen Hawking, Theresa May, Sir Ian McKellen, Rio Ferdinand, Stephen Fry, Yasser Arafat, Desmond Tutu, to name just a few. 

Did you know that W.E. Gladstone, later to become one of the greatest British Prime Ministers, was one of the leading figures of the Union’s early years? Gladstone was President of the Union in 1830, shortly before entering the House of Commons. Many others have followed him into politics. The Union can boast dozens of former members who have been active in the Union’s affairs whilst at Oxford, and then gone to become both nationally and internationally prominent figures. 

Speaker events at the Oxford Union have received great media attention over the years and, just like the debates, reach far beyond the Union walls. Unlike other student unions, the Oxford Union holds no political views and is a forum for debate and the discussion of controversial issues offering freedom of speech. It holds a black-tie debate weekly on various topics – from the merits of entrepreneurship to the death penalty. While the Union is known for attracting the great, the good, the powerful and the infamous, the fun fact to know, it also has a tradition of inviting less obvious speakers, for instance, the actress Pamela Anderson (she was there to talk about a cause close to her heart – vegetarianism) and, once, Kermit the Frog, a Muppet character.

Cherwell’s full-time students have the privilege to enroll as members of the Oxford Union and attend high-profile debates, take part in weekly debating workshops and make use of the excellent library facilities. Our students truly enjoy all the privileges of studying in Oxford!