GLOBAL: Australians top world student debating champs

Some 1,200 tertiary students from more than 60 countries and 200 universities converged on the University of Botswana for the 31st World Universities Debating Championships. Students from Australia dominated the top positions.

There were 312 teams, 640 debaters and 300 judges at the championships, which were held between 27 December and 4 January.

The University of Botswana does not yet have a hall large enough to accommodate such an event, so the final sessions, debates and celebration were held at the new Sir Seretse Khama Barracks Auditorium in Mogoditshane and at the Gaborone International Conference Centre.

The event was organised by a committee chaired by Justice Motlhabani, who has been debating for 12 years. Most recently he convened the second Pan-African Universities Debating Championship held in Namibia with participants from 10 African countries. He had a large committee and more than 200 volunteers to help keep things moving.

The top speakers were from Australia (Monash and Sydney) and Oxbridge - the universities of Oxford and Cambridge - in the UK. The London School of Economics and Yale University made the semi-finals, but lost to the Australians.

The top five speakers with accumulated points ranging from 756 to 767 were: Victor Finkel (Monash A) followed by Tim Mooney (Sydney A), Fiona Prowse (Monash A), and tied for fourth place Ben Woolgar (Oxford A) and Bronwyn Cowell (Sydney A).

Teams also competed for 'English-as-a-Foreign-Language' status. The top team was from Tokyo, Japan. The Botswana A team's rank position was 236 and Botswana B team 262 out of the 312 teams. They did better than students from Uganda, Zimbabwe and Lesotho.

Lots of entertainment provided light relief from the debates, including a karaoke night, a new year's eve and break night party, outings to Mokolodi Nature Reserve, and a comedy night. The biggest problem for the organisers was catering for all the different diets: kosher, halaal, vegetarian, vegan and others.

The key sponsors and partners were the University of Botswana, four national ministries, three airlines, some key hotels, newspapers, companies and a few outstanding individuals.

The 32nd World Universities Debating Championship will be held in Manila and the 2013 event in Berlin.