Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden students in world final of debating championship

Leiden students Floris Holstege and Lisa Schallenberg are competing in the final of the world debating championship on 3 January. The championship, which has been held every year since 1981, is being held in The Hague this year. Almost 400 teams from 94 different countries will be competing for the title of Debating World Champion.

The championship is divided into three competitions, Lisa Schallenberg explains. ‘Not everyone speaks equally good English so there are three competitions depending on how good your English is. Floris and I are in the 'English as a second language' group. The pair were in the quarter- and semi-finals on 2 January. 'We won the quarter-final,' Lisa tells us, 'but the semi-final didn't go quite as smoothly. Luckily it went well enough to get us through to the final.'   

No tools

The final lasts for an hour and a half and, as with the previous rounds, the teams have fifteen minutes to listen to a proposition. They can use the fifteen minutes to prepare for the debate. Tools such as encyclopaedia and internet are banned.

Floris Holstege en Lisa Schallenberg
Floris Holstege en Lisa Schallenberg


‘To prepare for the competition we read a lot of news and background articles so that we would have the information at our fingertips,' she went on.  The propositions are by no means easy. The quarter-final was about financial support for politicians in the US who make huge compromises with their opponents ' That's a very specific subject,' Lisa said. 'The organisation does it deliberately in the quarter-finals in order separate the wheat from the chaff.' 

Thinking up arguments

Lisa, who studies political sciences, gets a lot of benefit from her experience in debating. 'If I have to write an essay, for example, on a subject I've never debated, I find it quite easy to come up with arguments. I would say that debating helps me more with my studies than my studies help with debating.' 

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