John Locke Institute Essay Competition

Brief Introduction

The John Locke Institute encourages young people to cultivate the characteristics that turn good students into great writers: independent thought, depth of knowledge, clear reasoning, critical analysis and persuasive style. Our Essay Competition invites students to explore a wide range of challenging and interesting questions beyond the confines of the school curriculum.


Entering an essay in our competition can build knowledge, and refine skills of argumentation. It also gives students the chance to have their work assessed by experts. All of our essay prizes are judged by senior academics from the University of Oxford. The judges will choose their favorite essay from each subject category and an overall 'best essay' across seven subjects: Philosophy, Politics, Economics, History, Psychology, Theology and Law.


The very best candidates in each category will be invited to Oxford on the day of the awards ceremony for a series of precepts under the leadership of a senior member of our faculty. These invitations will be issued after the First Reading, on the same day the Short List is announced, while the judging process is still ongoing.


Key Dates

Wednesday, 15 July 2020: Submission deadline


Requirements, categories and further details

    • Subjects: Philosophy, Politics, Economics, History, Psychology, Theology and Law. Three questions for each subject.
    • Junior Category: four questions.
    • Candidates must be eighteen years old, or younger, on the date of the submission deadline.
    • Candidates for the Junior Prize must be fourteen years old, or younger, on the date of the submission deadline.
    • Each essay should address only one of the questions in your chosen subject category, and must not exceed 2000 words (not counting diagrams, tables of data, footnotes, bibliography or authorship declaration). Please submit your essay, saved in pdf format, through our website. The title of the pdf attachonorable mentionsent should read SURNAME, First Name (e.g. POPHAM, Alexander).
    • Essays will be judged on the level of knowledge and understanding of the relevant material, the quality of argumentation, the structure, writing style and persuasive force. Candidates are advised to answer the question as precisely and directly as possible.
    • You may submit as many essays as you please.



There is a prize for the best essay in each subject category. Each subject prize is worth £100, and the essays will be published (with the authors' permission) on the Institute website. The prize-giving ceremony will take place in Oxford, at which winners and runners-up will be able to meet the judges and other faculty members of the John Locke Institute. Family, friends and teachers are also welcome, subject to capacity constraints.


The candidate who submits the best essay overall will be awarded an honorary John Locke Institute Junior Fellowship, worth £500.


The judges' decisions are final, and no correspondence will be entered into.