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The Wilberforce Society

The Wilberforce Society
Abbreviation TWS
Formation Template:If empty
Type Public policy / Think tank
Headquarters Cambridge University
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Lord Wilson of Dinton
Laura Grunberg
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Website [1]
Formerly called
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The Wilberforce Society (TWS) is an independent, non-partisan, student-run think tank, based at the University of Cambridge.[1]

TWS aims to "promote constructive and intelligent debate" around the University of Cambridge, and "represents the views of moderate students," offering undergraduates and graduates "the opportunity to become involved with policy conception and analysis with the possibility of genuine impact." TWS follows its own policy agenda set by the executive committee as well as operating as a consultancy, carrying out commissions for external organisations, among which have been the House of Lords and the House of Commons. TWS does not charge fees. Most proposals are published on the think tank's website.[2]

Governance and Functioning

The Wilberforce Society works in two main areas. The first type of work is on commissions, which come from both private sector organisations and public bodies. For such assignments, members of the society form committees, which work corporately over a period of weeks or months to produce a research paper on the topic, which is then presented in an open lecture in front of academics, students, and members of the public.

The second type of work is the production of proposals by individuals and small groups. These proposals are then discussed at open meetings to which a guest expert is invited. The guest helps establish the background of the policy area and helps determine a suitable approach to the topic. Examples of this form of work are available on this website.

Aside from policy research, the Society function at the centre of Cambridge students’ political life, as the focal point for mutual dialogue between students and frontline policymakers. TWS Ideas provides a relaxed setting for informal debates on broad questions of public policy, and the TWS Forum is the networking seminar for the leaders of student political societies.

The Society has established links with YouGov, a UK opinion polster company. YouGov provides the data for some of the policy papers.

Annual Conference

The Wilberforce Society holds an annual conference. Previous speakers include Richard Kemp, Maajid Nawaz and the Rt Hon Rhodri Morgan. In 2013 the conference was titled "We don't need no education?" and involved speakers such as Lord Glasman. The title for the 2014 conference is “Small Island. Big World. Visions of Britain in a Global Era” and will be hosted at the Cambridge Union Society in early 2014.


In June 2010, Lord Wilson of Dinton, former Head of the Home Civil Service, was appointed Chair of the Board of Patrons of The Wilberforce Society. The Board also includes Baroness Prashar, Lord Kilclooney, Lord Rees of Ludlow, Lord Deben, and Professor Andrew Gamble.

In July 2013 at Prospect's annual think tank awards The Wilberforce Society was nominated as "One to Watch".[3]

In October 2013 TWS launched a blog for in order to publicise TWS events, create a forum for Cambridge students to write about and comment on policy issues, raise the profile of TWS events, and help more TWS members in active work. [4]


External links