Study Public Speaking & Debate with our Oxford Summer School 2018 | Students aged 16-18

Also available for students aged 13-15.

Class Summary

In this course, students focus on developing  their presentation and advocacy skills. They develop an understanding of how to plan a speech and how to build a strong and persuasive argument. They work on practical aspects of speech giving, such as body language, clarity of delivery and maintaining eye contact with their audience. Students gain wide-ranging experience of public speaking and debate, and by the end of the course they have a firm grounding in essential skills and feel confident in their ability to take on new challenges.

In each session students are shown new techniques and strategies, and then given plenty of opportunities to put these into practice. Sessions are structured so that there is plenty of time for questions and discussion; this approach is central to all ORA courses, but none more so than Public Speaking and Debate, where the chance to speak up is paramount. The two-week period leads up to a formal debating competition for the whole class on a chosen subject.

In the first week the course concentrates on public speaking, and in the second week on debating. Overall, it aims to combine instruction in the theory of speaking (‘manner, method, matter’) with instruction in the practice of speaking in context. Students work both individually and in groups on a variety of assignments designed to develop their newly-acquired skills within a welcoming and encouraging environment. The course also looks at a variety of famous speeches from history up to the present day to see how famous speakers have used various techniques, and what students can learn from their success: Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ and Julia Gillard’s ‘misogyny speech’ are both rigorously analysed.

The workshop debates address a variety of issues, ranging from easily accessible topics (e.g. the length of school holidays or the value of school uniform) to more complex and challenging social issues (the death penalty, euthanasia, the legalisation of drugs) as the students’ confidence increases.

Students will work alongside peers from across the world, often from very different cultures and backgrounds. This is a valuable opportunity to learn respectful discourse with those who hold different beliefs –  crucial when discussing delicate social and political problems in debate.


No experience of public speaking or debating is required.