Matthew Willmore, 21, and Adam Hawksbee, 22, became the first European debating champions from a...

Matthew Willmore, 21, and Adam Hawksbee, 22, became the first European debating champions from a Yorkshire institution after defeating Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh universities in the final.

220 teams of two people from universities from all over Europe participated in the competition which took place in Zagreb in August.

Willmore, who studied Politics and Philosophy and was the Debating Society training officer last year, said: “We came up against some brilliant teams on some very difficult motions. However, the general atmosphere is great as there are around 800 students from across Europe all in one place. There were socials in the evening and, between rounds, everyone was fairly relaxed”.

The motion given for the final was ‘This house believes that the feminist movement should oppose military interventions which claim to further women’s rights’ and Willmore said: “We had 15 minutes to prepare our case and were ushered into actors’ changing rooms. Adam and I were lucky as we came up with our case very quickly and were confident in our argument.

“Being seen as underdogs really helped us in the final as we didn’t have the weight of expectation to deal with.

“The support we received was great. As we walked out, the crowd sang “Common People” by Pulp, which was a really nice surprise. The warm welcome and continued support really buoyed our confidence.

Hawksbee, who studied History and Politics and was the President of the Working Committee last year, said: “It was an enormous amount of fun. We were really nervous beforehand so we spent the day drinking beer in a bar over the road from the hotel to calm our nerves, which meant we were a bit tipsy by the time we got into our tuxes and headed down to the venue”.

Willmore said: “this was very much a communal and not personal victory. Sheffield Debating has been incredibly important in our training and development and everyone involved has forged part of this success”.

Sheffield Debating meets on Monday nights in Coffee Revolution and Tuesday nights in the Gallery.