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Student fears of oral presentations and public speaking in higher education: A qualitative survey

Grieve, Rob; Woodley, Julie; Hunt, Stephen; McKay, Alison

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Rob Grieve
Senior Research Fellow (Knowledge Exchange)

Alison McKay


Oral presentations and public speaking are an important aspect of the student experience in the United Kingdom higher education. Many modules (self-contained units normally within a programme of study) use presentations as a form of assessment and require students to verbally engage in small and large group settings to enhance learning. Previous research evidence has indicated that many students experience fear in public speaking. The aims of this qualitative survey were two-fold. First, it sought to gather further insight into the fears experienced and strategies used by students who fear public speaking, including oral presentations. The second objective was to determine whether their fear affected their experience of higher education. A qualitative survey comprising four open-ended questions was completed by 46 undergraduate and postgraduate students with a fear of public speaking from the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol. All participants were attending one of the Stand Up and Be Heard (SUBH) UWE library-based workshops for fear of public speaking. Thematic analysis was used to identify the following six themes, namely: fear of being judged, physical symptoms, uncertainty about the topic, negative effect on university experience, practice and preparation, and more practical support needed. The results of this survey identify the specific fears students have in public speaking and provide evidence of the overall negative effect on their higher education experience. This survey provides further evidence that higher education institutions should acknowledge public speaking fear among some students and provide more support in oral presentation assessments.


Grieve, R., Woodley, J., Hunt, S., & McKay, A. (2021). Student fears of oral presentations and public speaking in higher education: A qualitative survey. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 45(9), 1281-1293.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 22, 2021
Online Publication Date Jul 15, 2021
Publication Date 2021
Deposit Date Aug 4, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 21, 2021
Journal Journal of Further and Higher Education
Print ISSN 0309-877X
Electronic ISSN 1469-9486
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 45
Issue 9
Pages 1281-1293
Keywords Education
Public URL
Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope:; Received: 2020-06-17; Accepted: 2021-06-22; Published: 2021-07-15


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