The Student Room Logo
This thread is closed

The Cambridge Union - is it worth it?

Well, is it? I just want a bit more info before I decide to fork out the £100 membership lol. Also, on a side note, will I need to buy a dinner suit before I come or can it be bought during term?
Reply 1
you fool. that's the cambridge union, not the CUSU.

if you do actually mean the CU, i'd be interested in the answer too. i'm very tempted to join, but is it worth it if i'm not that interested in getting involved in the debates?

and yeah, course you can buy a dinner suit during term if you so wish. cambridge does have shops, funnily enough...
I didn't join, and I don't regret it. Some of the events you can go to if you're not a member but just pay £1 (I think) on the door. This works out cheaper if you're selective about what you want to go to.

On the other hand, a few of the popular events I think are open only to members of the union- I think purely because members get priority, and so many of them want to go. I think this was the case when Richard Dawkins did a talk.

I personally don't feel I'm missing out, but that's probably because I'm not really that interested in many of the debates.
If you're going to be a regular (of the CU) attender of the debates then yes it is worth it - the debates are usually interesting and you get some high profile speakers. Also if you're one of those ambitious CV-whoring types you have to be a member to get elected onto the commitee. However if you're like me and only interested in the odd debate here and there - don't bother. Find a friend who's going to the debate and just say you're from bristol or wherever and pay the £3 guest charge on the door.

As for black tie, yes you can buy one in cambridge although chances are you live in a place that doesn't charge as much for them.
Reply 4
I wouldn't pay now. I joined and I haven't been since first year apart from to a couple of parties. Especially do not join for the "free Ben & Jerrys" event - you have to queue for so long and get not much, you'd be better off buying a tub and eating it in your room.

Go along to a few debates, see how you like it and then decide. You might lose out on the Freshers' discount but at least you'll know whether you really want to spend the money on it.
Reply 5
I love the Union, I ended up not as involved as i wanted to be, as all my societies ended up on the same night, but i think i got my moneys worth at the free tastings of wine and fudge and that sort of thing :biggrin: Oh yeah, the debates arent bad either.
Reply 6
It depends on they type of person you are. For me i intend to sign up on day 1 because its right up my street ad offers fantastic opportunities with the debates and the like, but if you aren't really interested in the debates then its almost certainly not worth it just for the fringe benefits.
Reply 7
I was thinking that the debates would be interesting/handy to go to because I'm doing law.. [I could be very deluded though] and it is a lifetime membership.. with sort of reciprocal goodies in other places.. and well, it was a shiny booklet!!
Reply 8
As someone who studies something that is often relevant (SPS) to the debates I've been a fair few times. But equally a fair few times I've just thought, **** it. I've been reading for or writing an essay all day. I don't want to do this. I love my subject but there is only so much I can take over a term (I don't read for pleasure during term time and some books that I would really enjoy reading can turn into huge chores as you note take, analyse, reference, reread). Also the debates go on for over 2 hours on occasion, its often quite hot and stuffy and its rare to get 6 good engaging speakers - the talks are often much more worthwhile IMHO. Though I know a lot of people who love it and go every week. I'd say its worth the money, even if you only go half a dozen times it works out as pretty good value for money compared to what you would pay to see some of these speakers 'in real life'.

I've never got massively involved in the Union politics itself but if thats your thing then its definitely worth the money.
Reply 9
A lot of lawyers (me included) seem to be members - also keen SPS-ers. This might be restating what you've heard already about the Union, but this is basically what you get for your membership:

- Access to weekly debates, usually on political or ethical issues. Two teams of 3 debaters argue their cases, then it's open to the floor, then spectators get to vote.

- Special speaker events. For example, in the past year they had Jeremy Paxman, Richard Dawkins and the deputy PM of Iraq. They're all pretty high-profile.

- Discounted or free access to their various events, eg free food/drink events, garden party, and Spring ball. IIRC the ball was cancelled and after people had bought tickets so it may be fair to say they can't really be trusted in that sense.

- Fairly cheap bar. If you can drag some mates with you to go.

- Access to the library. The selection's okay, targeted towards interest rather than study which is a refreshing change from the uni libraries. Also a nice change of scenery for exam term revision.

- Snooker tables & daily papers.

- A smug sense of superiority over non-members.

- The reciprocal memberships (if you care)

I'd recommend taking a look around first, check out the Cambridge Union Society website, maybe attend a debate. You might decide it's right up your alley, or that it doesn't really float your boat.
If you check the Union website it says that except for the freshers' and "refreshers'" stuff which is at the very start of Mich and Lent terms, you have to be a member to go to any of their debates or talks. So as long as you are eligible for membership (ie. a member of the university) you can't just pay on the door as a guest for any of the interesting stuff.

I'm not a member, anyway, and unless I suddenly become mega-interested in politics I won't ever be. It seemed to be a popular evening out among some freshers in my college for Michaelmas term, who were probably doing it just so they could justify their subscription money.

Only person I'd have been interested in hearing speak is Richard Dawkins. Atheism FTW!
Personally, I enjoyed the debates, and a few of the big-name speakers. Ben & Jerry's really shouldn't be a great temptation to join - as others have said, you end up queueing for a very long time for a rather small amount of ice-cream. If you're at all into debating, it's definitely seriously worth considering joining - as well as the debates, there are very regular debating classes (for all levels) with good tutoring and practice available.

I'd recommend going to a few of the Freshers' Events (especially the debate) to see what you think; if you're interested, there's usually a week or two before the Freshers' Discount runs out. Also, there are usually free event at the start of Lent term, if you want to re-evaluate your opinion at a later point. However, do try to get there quite early for the free events, as they tend to get very busy!
I'll be joining! :biggrin: - the CU looks brilliant.
Reply 13
I really enjoy going to the union - I mean, there's a great variety of debates and speaker evenings with all kinds of people you'd never think you'd actually get to meet in real life! (And some of them stick around in the bar afterwards, so you may get a chance to chat to them if you want!) You don't have to go absolutely every week to make it worthwhile, but most weeks there's something of interest, and if an event is popular, which it probably will be if you're particularly interested in going, you almost definitely won't get in unless you're a member! (In fact, for the really popular ones, even some members get turned away if they don't turn up early!) I also find it helps me a little to keep up-to-date with current affairs as once I'm in the 'Cambridge bubble' I start to forget the outside world exists - you know, that one besides lectures, supervisions, reading and essays! Good to keep a sense of perspective on the world and the much bigger issues out there! Plus I've got a good core group of friends that go to the union regularly, which is nice, and we often end up in big discussions of the debates afterwards!

Of course it depends on what sort of person you are, and whether realistically you are going to use your membership, but I reckon it's definitely worth it! Best money I spent yet in Cambridge probably!
Its a lot cheaper than our Union (£190) :mad: :mad: :mad: :mad: :mad:
Reply 15
Does anyone know whether the Freshers discount just applies to Freshers or to anyone during Michaelmas?

I was thinking of joining for the cheaper rate this year even if the only event I felt I missed out on was Billy Bragg.
Does anyone know whether the Freshers discount just applies to Freshers or to anyone during Michaelmas?

I was thinking of joining for the cheaper rate this year even if the only event I felt I missed out on was Billy Bragg.

Anyone, AFAIK - unless they change it this year, which I doubt :smile: