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sociology essay competition 2021

BSA >> Opportunities >> BSA Young Sociologist of the Year Competition

BSA Young Sociologist of the Year Competition 

This year our competition question was   ‘To what extent, and in what ways, is patriarchy alive and kicking?’

Entries for 2023 are closed and we'd like to thank everyone who submitted.

How to Enter

Entries are closed.

Terms and conditions:

  • Entries must be accompanied by confirmation from a Sociology teacher that it is the work of the pupil.
  • Entries must be lone submissions (not joint).
  • Reports must 2,000 words (excluding bibliography, figures, tables etc.)
  • Entries submitted in the form of a video or podcast must not exceed 10 minutes.
  • We reserve the right to check submitted works for plagiarism using online tools.
  • Reference to other scholars (including teachers, books, articles and websites) should be acknowledged.
  • All work must be written or presented in the English language.
  • The judges’ decision is final and we reserve the right to publish your entry with your permission.

The British Sociological Association (BSA) is the national subject association for sociologists in the UK and its primary objective is to promote sociology. The BSA is the largest sociological network in the UK and is the public face of sociology in Britain.

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Politics and Society - Young Sociologist

Young sociologist of the year.

The Young Sociologist of the Year award is an essay-based competition hosted by the UCD School of Sociology and the Sociological Association of Ireland  (SAI). We are delighted to see that so many Leaving Cert students have chosen the Politics and Society option and so many Northern Irish students are pursuing A Level Sociology. We want to encourage and reward students who are learning to think about how the society we live in is structured and organised.

Competition Prizes

We are offering the following prizes for the top student entries:

  • 1st place - €300 gift voucher
  • 2nd place - €100 gift voucher
  • 3rd place (x6) - €50 gift voucher

The teachers of the winning students will be awarded:

  • 1st place - €100 gift voucher
  • 2nd place - €50 gift voucher
  • 3rd place (x6) - €50 gift voucher

If you are interested in societal structures, themes such as gender, class, migration, or development, or even if you would just like to have their essay read and assessed by a sociology academic, then this competition is for you!

Application Guidelines and Assessment Criteria

  • Students who wish to participate must submit the essay to their teacher
  • This essay can be a piece of work that has already been completed as part of your coursework for the Politics and Society programme or A Level Sociology curriculum.
  • The essay could also be a piece of work that will be relevant to the Leaving Cert citizenship project focusing on one of the following topics:

Strand 1: Power and decision-making • Topic 1 Power and decision-making in school • Topic 2 Power and decision-making at national and European level Strand 2: Active citizenship • Topic 3 Effectively contributing to communities • Topic 4 Rights and responsibilities in communication with others Strand 3: Human rights and responsibilities • Topic 5 Human rights and responsibilities in Ireland • Topic 6 Human rights and responsibilities in Europe and the wider world Strand 4: Globalisation and localisation • Topic 7 Globalisation and identity • Topic 8 Sustainable development

  • Word count 800-1,000 words
  • The teacher will select the “top 3” essays from the class and submit to UCD Sociology and the SAI for assessment
  • Up to a maximum of 3 essay submissions per class is permitted
  • The competition is open to both 5th and 6th year students
  • Essays must be submitted to UCD Sociology by Friday 4th March 2022 (N.B. new deadline replaces previoous 18th Feb date)
  • The winners of the competition will be announced by the end of March
  • The names and essay titles of the winner and runner-up will be displayed on the School of Sociology website
  • Feedback will only be provided on winning essay entries
  • Essays can be hand written or typed

This competition is an opportunity for students to address themes relevant within our Society today. The essay will be assessed by a panel of academics from the UCD School of Sociology and representatives from the SAI. The essay that presents the most insightful analysis of a sociologically relevant theme will win.

How to Submit the Essays: 

Complete application form

The application form must be completed and submitted with the essays to [email protected]

Young Sociologist of the Year 2021/22 Winners

1st place:  Aine Reeves, 5th Year,  St Wolstan's Community School, Celbridge, Co. Kildare

Essay: Does Difference in cultural identity create political violence?

Teacher: Margaret Cosgrove

2nd place:  Catherine Maher, 5th Year, Laurel Hill, South Circular Road, Limerick

Essay: Educational inequality leads to inequality in society

Teacher: Catherine McGing

Joint 3rd place:  Caitlin Pharro, 6th Year, St. Catherine's College, Convent Road, Armagh

Essay:  Assess Marxist explanations of crime and deviance

Teacher: Louise McGilly

Joint 3rd place:  Caoimhe Whelan, 5th Year, St. Louis High School, Charleville Road, Rathmines, Dublin

Essay:  Would theorist Kathleen Lynch agree that inequality in Irish society is perpetuated by the education system?

Teacher:Louise Stenson

Joint 3rd place:  Ben Wade, 5th Year, Temple Carrig School, Greystones, Co Wicklow

Essay: Critically examine the view that  Modern Irish society is a patriarchy

Teacher: John McGuinness

Joint 3rd place:  Clodagh Donnelly, 6th Year, Drogheda Grammar School, Mornington Road, Drogheda, Co. Louth

Essay: The west has historically constructed itself in 0pposition to the non-western World (Us vs Them) and has Imagined itself as rational and others as irrational.

Teacher: Elaine Farrelly

Joint 3rd place:  Rosanna Turner, 5th Year, Temple Carrig Secondary School, Blacklion,  Greystones, Co. Wicklow. 

Essay: Inequality in Irish Society is Perpetuated by the Education System

Joint 3rd place:  Jeremiah (Miah) Falvey, 6th Year, Bruce College, Audley House, St Patrick’s Hill, Cork

Essay: Development in harmony with nature requires a move away from big industries and urbanisation and towards small scale self-reliant communities using renewable resources

Teacher: Declan Hourihan

Young Sociologist of the Year 2020/21 Winners

1st place: Martha Roe, 5th Year, Temple Carrig School, Greystones, Co Wocklow

Essay:  Inequality in Irish society is perpetuated by inequality in the education system

2nd place: Kate Fennell, 5th Year, Temple Carrig School, Greystones, Co Wocklow

Essay:  Modern Irish society is a patriarchy

Joint 3rd place: Chonaill Devlin, 6th Year,  Meánscoil Gharman, Co Wexford

Essay:  How the ideas of Paulo Friere could ameliorate inequality in our education system.

Muinteoir: David Gannon

Joint 3rd place: Grace Keane, 6th Year,  Pobalscoil na Trionoide, Youghal, Co. Cork

Essay:  Globalisation processes of trade, travel  and ICT are breaking down national culture and identities and creating a cosmopolitanism identity

Teacher: Garrett McSweeney

Joint 3rd place: Viktorija Petunova,  Sacred Heart Grammar School, Newry, Co Down

Essay: What factors external to the education system lead to differences in class and educational attainment?

Teacher: Emma Westcott

Honourabe mentions go to:

Jack Phelan, 5th Year, C.B.S. High School Clonmel, Co Tipperary

Essay:  Ireland’s system of accommodating those seeking international protection while in the asylum process is a flawed system

Teacher: Tom Ryan

Poppy Harley, 6th Year, Drogheda Grammar School, Co Louth

Essay: Underdevelopment is caused by people in countries not having the knowledge, technology and industry of people in developed countries

Teacher:  Elaine Farrelly

Young Sociologist of the Year 2019 - Winners

Winner: Caitlin Parnell, 5th year, Santa Sabina, Howth, Dublin.

Karl Marx: Why his ideas are still relevant today.

sociology essay competition 2021

Runner Up: Matthew Murnane, 6th year, Oatlands College, Mount Merrion, Dublin.

Is the “Invisible Woman” still a phenomenon in Irish Society Today?

sociology essay competition 2021

Study With Us

Whether you are with us for one module, for a year or all the way to the degree we hope you find sociology enlightening. The School of Sociology is full of people who are passionately interested in topics from across the wide expanse that sociology spans. This is reflected in the range of module options taught in the School of Sociology covering topics such as gender, work, anthropology, the developing world, the state, health and illness, American society, childhood, the environment, education, cities, migration, etc.

Although you will find lots of other students with you in your sociology lectures, the School of Sociology is committed to small-group teaching. This is done by providing seminars to accompany the optional modules. The optional module seminars are taught almost exclusively by the lecturers themselves, thus giving you more face-to-face contact with your lecturers. 

Students can study Sociology in the following undergraduate programmes:

  • BSc Social Sciences DN700
  • Computational Social Science DN700
  • BSocSc Social Policy & Sociology DN750
  • Bachelor of Arts DN520

UCD School of Sociology

sociology essay competition 2021

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The South African Sociological Association conducts an annual student essay competition.

Details of the competition are announced via the SASA mailing list during the run-up to each annual conference. Departments of Sociology are asked to encourage eligible students to enter the competition.

Past winners of the student essay competition

Junior Sociologists

Isa worldwide competition for junior sociologists.

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sociology essay competition 2021

The International Sociological Association is pleased to announce a list of the winners and finalists of the Eighth Worldwide Competition for Junior Sociologists engaged in social research, selected by the Grand Jury chaired by the ISA President Sari Hanafi.

(in alphabetical order)

  • Ms. Nedha DE SILVA, Monash University, Australia Post-conflict Neoliberal Microfinance Debt Crisis: The Tragedy of the Sri Lankan Rural Women  
  • Ms. Jiyoung KIM, Paris Nanterre University, France Gentrifying Otherness: Diversity and Whiteness in the Restaurants in the Canal Saint-Martin Neighbourhood in Paris  
  • Mr. Maximiliano MARENTES, Universidad Nacional de San Martín, Argentina Ni iguales ni desiguales. Principios de igualación y desigualación en relaciones amorosas de varones argentinos

The winners receive four-year membership in the ISA, registration fee and ticket to participate in the XX ISA World Congress of Sociology (June 25- July 1, 2023) and a pre-congress seminar in Melbourne, Australia. The winners will be presented at the Prize Giving Ceremony at the Congress.

 (in alphabetical order)

  • Adrienne Lee ATTERBERRY, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, USA Intensive Teaching: Teaching within a Neoliberal Context  
  • Mr. John Rey CODILLA, Davao Oriental State College of Science and Technology, Philippines Violent Incidents and School Safety: Avatar of Basic Education in the Era of FIRe  
  • Ms. Anna FEDOROVA, S.I. Vavilov Institute for the History of Science and Technology of the RAS, Russia Actualization of Russian Ethnic Nationalism in Social Networks: the Experience of Non-reactive Research  
  • Mr. Alan FREITAS, Universidad Federal de Juiz de Fora, Brazil Well-Being and Social Stratification Process in Brazil  
  • Ms. Veronica GREGORIO, National University of Singapore, Singapore Farmers as Parents: Dissecting Parenting Strategies of Smallholders  
  • Ms. Alice KROZER and Mr. Diego CASTAÑEDA, El Colegio de México, México Life on the Edge: Elites, Wealth, and Inequality in Sonora 1871-1910  
  • Ms. Larisa LARA GUERRERO, Université de Liège, Belgique Subjetivación política de migrantes mexicanos en Bélgica y Francia: procesos de reflexión, experiencia y emancipación  
  • Mr. Julien LARREGUE, University of Copenhagen, Denmark La réforme des moeurs scientifiques. Une analyse sociologique de la fraude en psychologie sociale  
  • Mr. Romulo NIEVA, University of Otago, New Zealand Contextualising the Nexus between Incarceration and Reproductive Wellbeing: The case of Filipino Women in Prison  
  • Ms. Alice SCAVARDA, University of Turin, Italy Can You See the Person, Beyond the Syndrome? Strategies of Resistance to Stigma of Parents with Disabled Children  
  • Mr. Arno VAN HOOTEGEM, Catholic University Leuven, Belgium Worlds of Distributive Justice Preferences. Individual- and Country-level Profiles of Support for Equality, Equity and Need  
  • Mr. Tiago VIEIRA, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain Platform Couriers’ Self-exploitation: the Case of Glovo

  The finalists receive Merit Award Certificate, four-year membership in the ISA, registration fee to participate in the XX ISA World Congress of Sociology (June 25- July 1, 2023) and in a pre-congress seminar in Melbourne, Australia. The ISA, however, cannot cover their travel costs.  

Committee of the Eight ISA Worldwide Competition for Junior Sociologists: Professor Ayse Saktanber, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, Coordinator Professor Laura Oso Casas, University of Coruña, Spain Professor Bandana Purkayastha, University of Connecticut, USA Contact [email protected]

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Undergraduate essay writing competition 2021-22.

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sociology essay competition 2021

Undergraduate Essay Writing Competition  2021-2022

Maynooth University Writing Centre has launched the Undergraduate Essay Writing Competition for 2021-2022. Full details on the essay theme, eligibility, and the adjudicating process are available here:  Essay Competition Theme and Guidelines

The closing date is midnight on  Monday, April 11th, 2022.

The overall winner of this competition will receive an iPad, while the two runners-up will each receive a €100 One4All voucher. 

We want to showcase and celebrate undergraduate student writing - so why not enter?

Oxford and Cambridge Essay Competitions

We have gathered together some of the key essay competitions to enter, hosted by colleges at oxford and cambridge university..

If you are applying for Oxbridge or a top UK or Russell Group university that interviews its applicants, it is worth noting that many of the competition questions are very similar to interview-style questions. Submitting an essay to one of these essay competitions is a great way to increase your super-curricular knowledge for personal statement or interview and many will provide feedback from top academics in their field. You may only have time to enter one competition, but check out similar ones relating to your course of application, and practise brainstorming/verbalising an answer to the question.

Oxbridge Essay Competitions

Could you be interested in having an Oxbridge-educated mentor support your writing process? Minds Underground™ is the brainchild of the wider educational company, U2 , with offerings curated by a team of 700+ Oxbridge-educated mentors , who would be able to support both your essay competition entry and wider Oxbridge application (sessions from £75/h).

Do also check out online Oxbridge Summer Schools , hosted by our team of Oxbridge graduates, with 12 different subject categories!

Course-wide Oxbridge Essay Competitions:

Robinson college, cambridge’s essay prize.

This essay competition is designed to give students the opportunity to develop and showcase their independent study and writing skills. Unfortunately, for external reasons, the essay won’t be running in 2023, but may well be running in 2024 so do keep an eye out so you don’t miss it!

Sample Essay Questions from 2020

Discuss, with reference to any academic discipline, any area of interest raised by one of the following quotations/ questions:

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” (Benjamin Franklin) Do you agree?

Does the theory of evolution by natural selection tell us anything interesting about how we should live?

Watch the following TED talk by novelist Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story.  TED Global . (2009) Available online via: . What are novels for? Answer in light of the TED talk and any one or two text(s) you have read recently

“A true war story is never moral. […] If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever.” (Tim O’Brien,  The Things They Carried , 1990). Write about any piece of war literature or art about war in light of O’Brien’s claim

There is no such thing as ‘untranslatable’. Discuss

Sample Essay Questions from 2022

'Law and morality should never collide'. Discuss.

A character in a novel written by an African American woman in 1892 makes the following claim:"Miss Leroy, out of the race must come its own thinkers and writers. Authors belonging to the white race have written good books, for which I am deeply grateful, but it seems to be almost impossible for a white man to put himself completely in our place. No man can feel the iron which enters another man's soul." (From Iola Leroy by Francis Harper)Black feminist writer Patricia Hill Collins describes the above as a "belief in a special vision of those who have experienced oppression". Discuss this belief with reference to at least one book, play, or poem written by an author of colour.

Can science tell us how we should live?

In the twenty-first century, what is monarchy for?

"A good translation is like a pane of glass. It should never call attention to itself." (Norman R. Shapiro). Discuss.

Girton College, Cambridge’s Humanities Writing Competition

Aimed at giving Humanities applicants an insight into research at university level - candidates expected to produce extensively researched, clearly written and well-referenced essays ranging well beyond the set curriculum. This essay is a great way to extend your knowledge and research across a wide range of different humanities based subjects so useful if you are looking to apply for something like Human, Social, Political Sciences (HSPS).

Newnham College, Cambridge’s Woolf Essay Prize

This year, the Woolf Essay Prize invites participation from all female students in Year 12 (or equivalent), irrespective of their school or nationality. The submission deadline is 12pm GMT on Friday, July 14th, 2023.

While this award might particularly interest those pursuing English Literature, History, Politics, Philosophy, or Sociology, the college encourages entries from curious students studying a diverse range of subjects.


Fitzwiliam college, cambridge’s archaeology essay competition.

Past questions: What are the challenges in reconstructing cultural identities from the archaeological record?// How does reconstructing diet help us understand past societies?

The college also runs writing Webinars in the months leading up to these essay competitions that would be really useful in getting yourself Cambridge and Oxford

Fitzwilliam essay Competition


Fitzwilliam college, cambridge’s architectural design competition.

This is an exciting opportunity for secondary school students to analytically approach a design problem and creatively develop architectural design solutions. Students will design and communicate their design solutions through drawings and a design narrative

Oriel College, Oxford’s Lloyd Davies Philosophy Prize

2019 questions included: Is anything special about the present moment?// Can one be mistaken about one's own state of mind?// Which is more important in determining the wrongness of a person's action: the person's intentions or the action's effects?

The Lloyd Davies Philosophy Prize is open to students in Year 12 (or equivalent). The first prize is £250, and there may also be a second prize of £150.

Trinity College, Cambridge’s Philosophy Essay Prize

2020 Question 1: If you learn that humanity will be extinct in twenty years, what difference should it make to what you value?

Question 2: Could you be friends with a robot?

The competition carries a First Prize of £600 and a Second Prize of £400, to be split equally between the candidate and his or her school or college; the school or college’s portion of the prize to be issued in the form of book tokens.

St. Hugh’s College, Oxford’s The Julia Wood Prize

St Hugh’s College, Oxford offers a prize worth up to £500, for the best historical essay submitted by a pupil who, at the closing date, has been in the Sixth Form of any school or college for a period of not more than two years.

Entries should be 2,000 – 4,000 words in length, and should be submitted as a Microsoft Word document, together with the Julia Wood Prize cover sheet .

Trinity College, Cambridge’s Robson History Prize

2020 Questions : E.g. Can one write a history of women in Ancient Greece? Is it meaningful to speak of a ‘renaissance’ in intellectual life in twelfth-century Europe? What can historians learn from coins?

The competition carries a First Prize of £600, and second prize of £400 both to be shared equally between the successful essayist and their school or college.

Classics essay competition

St. Hugh’s College, Oxford’s The Mary Renault Prize

At least one prize will be awarded a pupil who is not studying either Latin or Greek to A-level standard

Prize worth up to £300

“Essays can be from any discipline and should be on a topic relating to the reception of classical antiquity – including Greek and Roman literature, history, political thought, philosophy, and material remains – in any period to the present; essays on reception within classical antiquity (for instance, receptions of literary or artistic works or of mythical or historical figures) are permitted.”

Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge’s Ancient World/ Classics Essay Competition

Trinity college, cambridge’s gould prize for essays in english literature.

“This Essay Prize has the following aims. First, to encourage talented students with an interest in English Literature to explore their reading interests further in response to general questions about the subject.”

Like the other Trinity essay competitions, the competition carries a First Prize of £600, and second prize of £400 both to be shared equally between the successful essayist and their school or college.

Queen’s College, Cambridge’s The Estelle Prize for English

Example question from 2019 competition: The following two poems, (a) 'To Autumn' by John Keats, and (b) 'Halcyon Days' by Walt Whitman, might be said to create for their readers an experience as well as an understanding of time. Making reference to the distinctive temporality of one or both poems, write about the experience of time in any other poem or poems you like.

The winner will receive a £500 prize; depending on the strength of the field of submissions, honourable mentions may also be made.


Trinity college, cambridge’s linguistics essay prize.

It may be of interest to students taking A-Levels in Modern Languages, English Language or Classics, but also to students taking Psychology or Mathematics

Land Economy

Fitzwilliam college, cambridge’s land economy competition.

Past questions: ‘Governments should be accountable to their citizens for loss caused by climate change’. Discuss.// Critically analyse the costs and benefits of a large-scale infrastructure project of your choice. In making this assessment, consider in particular any regional disparities and how they are affected by such projects

Trinity College, Cambridge’s R.A. Butler Politics Prize

Aims to encourage students with an interest in modern politics and world affairs to think about undertaking university studies in Politics, International Studies or a related discipline; it is not limited to those already studying these subjects or indeed other social sciences

Trinity College, Cambridge’s Robert Walker Prize for Essays in Law

Aims to encourage students with an interest in Law to explore that interest by researching, considering and developing an argument about a legal topic of importance to modern society.

2020 Question': ‘Should legal disputes be determined by artificial, rather than human, means?’

Law Essay Competition

Peterhouse College, Cambridge’s Kelvin Science Prize

The Kelvin Science Essay Competition is open to students in their penultimate year of study (Year 12 in England and Wales, S5 in Scotland, Year 13 in Northern Ireland, or equivalent) who are educated in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Please find attached the questions for this years competition. 

Engineering essay competition

Are you applying to Oxbridge? Join our Summer “ Beyond the Syllabus ” Classes for Oxbridge Preparation

Oxford and Cambridge offer environments where individuals are enriched through constant interaction and discussion with the world’s leading academics in intimate tutorial sessions of 1-3 students. At interview, prospective applicants are expected to demonstrate how they would perform in a tutorial session – they must exhibit high performance capability in their specific academic field as well as creative or abstract thinking. This means your preparation must go beyond school learning and activities. Excelling in an academic field or skill to the level required by Oxbridge, whether that be in the Social Sciences, Humanities or STEM subjects, requires exploring new material and ideas outside the standard curriculum, verging on 1st year university level learning.

Which is why our Oxbridge subject specialists have curated summer courses in 17 subjects, replicating the Oxbridge style of teaching and learning.

Online Summer Schools

Our Online Summer Schools are specifically designed to encourage university level thinking and give you exposure to a range of exciting topic areas outside the curriculum

You’ll learn from our all-Oxbridge team of subject specialists

Let us know if you have any questions via email or call (+447772211241). We would be delighted to have you join us

Do also check out our free Oxbridge resources on our tuition division website, U2 Tuition ! We have new blogs on MLAT, BMAT and HAT preparation, Psychology personal statement writing and more!

sociology essay competition 2021


2023 global essay competition.

T he 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 a panel of senior academics drawn from leading universities including Oxford and Princeton. The judges will choose their favourite essay from each of seven subject categories, and a junior category for under 15s, and then select an overall 'best essay' across the seven subjects: Philosophy, Politics, Economics, History, Psychology, Theology and Law.

Q1. A team of scientists wants to discover how many genders there are. How should they proceed?

Q2. In what sense are you the same person today that you were when you were ten?

Q3. Is tax theft? 


Q1. Do the results of elections express the will of the people?

Q2. If China becomes the leading superpower, what would that mean for the people who live there? What would it mean for everyone else?

Q3. What might account for the different levels of political corruption in your own country and your country's nearest neighbour?

Q1. A government funds its own expenditure by taxing its population. Suppose, instead, it relied solely on money newly created by the central bank? What would be the advantages and/or disadvantages?   

Q2. In his thought experiment, the Iowa Car Crop, David Friedman tries to show that growing wheat is, in an important sense, just another 'technology' we can use for manufacturing cars, and in some circumstances a much more efficient one.

If international trade is thus a way of using less valuable inputs to produce more valuable outputs, why would governments impose trade barriers such as tariffs and quotas, thereby forcing producers to be more wasteful and less efficient?

Q3. What would happen if we banned billionaires?


Q1. How much richer or poorer are the British today than they would have been without the effects of British colonialism? 

Q2. Which has a bigger effect on history: the plans of the powerful or their mistakes?

Q3. Which characteristics distinguish successful movements for social change from unsuccessful ones?

Q1. Can happiness be measured?

Q2. In surveys conducted in the United States, significantly more than half the respondents reported that they believed themselves to be more attractive than the median person in their country. How might we account for this?

Q3. Are beliefs voluntary?


Q1. What distinguishes a small religion from a large cult?

Q2. If you cannot persuade your intelligent, sympathetic friends to embrace your religious belief system, do you have enough reason to believe what you believe? 

Q3. What was God doing before He created the cosmos?

Q1. Would justice be better served in the United States if more Supreme Court judges were women? 

Q2. Suppose that you were contemplating, in violation of the rules of this competition, submitting an essay written for you by artificial intelligence. What would be the difference between such an act and ordinary attempted theft?

Q3. Are there too many laws?


JUNIOR prize

Q1. Is safety more important than fun?

Q2.  If you had $10 billion to spend on making the world better, how would you spend it?

Q3. What, if anything, do your parents owe you?

Q4. What is something important, about which nearly everybody is wrong?

Q5. Why is John Locke sometimes called the father of liberalism?


Our entry requirements and submission system have changed substantially.

Please read the following carefully.

Entry to the John Locke Institute Essay Competition 2023 is open to students from any country.


Only candidates who registered before the registration deadline of 31 May 2023 may enter this year's competition.

All entries must be submitted by 11.59 pm BST on  the submission deadline: Friday, 30 June 2023 .  Candidates must be eighteen years old, or younger, on that date. (Candidates for the Junior Prize must be fourteen years old, or younger, on that date.)

Entry is free.

Each essay must address only one of the questions in your chosen subject category, and must not exceed 2000 words (not counting diagrams, tables of data, endnotes, bibliography or authorship declaration). 

The filename of your pdf must be in this format: FirstName-LastName-Category-QuestionNumber.pdf; so, for instance, Alexander Popham would submit his answer to question 2 in the Psychology category with the following file name:


Essays with filenames which are not in this format will be rejected.

Candidates should NOT add footnotes. They may, however, add endnotes and/or a Bibliography that is clearly titled as such.

Each candidate will be required to provide the email address of an academic referee who is familiar with the candidate's written academic work. This should be a school teacher, if possible, or another responsible adult who is not a relation of the candidate. The John Locke Institute will email this referee to verify that the submitted essay is indeed the original work of the candidate.

Submissions may be made as soon as registration opens in April. We recommend that you submit your essay well in advance of th e deadline to avoid any last-minute complications and to ensure that you can submit your essay for free.

Acceptance of your essay depends on your granting us permission to use your data for the purposes of receiving and processing your entry as well as communicating with you about the Awards Ceremony Dinner, the academic conference for essay competition finalists, and other events and programmes of the John Locke Institute and its associated entities.  

Late entries

If for any reason you miss the 30 June deadline you will have an opportunity to make a late entry, under two conditions:

a) A late entry fee of 20.00 USD must be paid by credit card within twenty-four hours of the original deadline; and

b) Your essay must be submitted  before 11.59 pm BST on 10 July 2023.

To pay for late entry, a registrant need only log into his or her account, select the relevant option and provide the requested payment information.

Our grading system is proprietary. Essayists may be asked to discuss their entry with a member of the John Locke Institute’s faculty. We use various means to identify plagiarism, contract cheating, the use of AI and other forms of fraud . Our determinations in all such matters are final.

Essays will be judged on knowledge and understanding of the relevant material, the competent use of evidence, quality of argumentation, originality, structure, writing style and persuasive force. The very best essays are likely to be those which would be capable of changing somebody's mind. Essays which ignore or fail to address the strongest objections and counter-arguments are unlikely to be successful .

Candidates are advised to answer the question as precisely and directly as possible.

The writers of the best essays will receive a commendation and be shortlisted for a prize. Writers of shortlisted essays will be notified by 11.59 pm BST on 31 July . They will also be invited to Oxford for an invitation-only academic conference and awards dinner in September, where the prize-winners will be announced. Unlike the competition itself, the academic conference and awards dinner are not free. Please be aware that n obody is required to attend either the academic conference or the prize ceremony. You can win a prize without travelling to Oxford.

All short-listed candidates, including prize-winners, will be able to download eCertificates that specify their achievement. If you win First, Second or Third Prize, and you travel to Oxford for the ceremony, you will receive a signed certificate. 

There is a prize for the best essay in each category. The prize for each winner of a subject category, and the winner of the Junior category, is a scholarship worth US$2000 towards the cost of attending any John Locke Institute programme, and the essays will be published on the Institute's website. Prize-giving ceremonies will take place in Oxford, at which winners and runners-up will be able to meet some of 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, which comes with a US$10,000 scholarship to attend one or more of our summer schools and/or gap year courses.

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

R egistration opens: 1 April, 2023.

Registration deadline: 31 May, 2023. ( Registration is required by this date for subsequent submission.)

Submission deadline: 30 June, 2023.

Late entry deadline: 10 July, 2023. (Late entries are subject to a 20.00 USD charge, payable by 1 July.)

Notification of short-listed essayists: 31 July, 2023.

Academic conference & awards dinners: 16 September, 2023.

Any queries regarding the essay competition should be sent to [email protected] . Please be aware that, due to the large volume of correspondence we receive, we cannot guarantee to answer every query. In particular, questions whose answers can be found on our website will be ignored.

If you would like to receive, from time to time, content from our examiners about what makes for a winning essay or updates about the 2023 essay competition, please provide your email here to be added to our contact list. .

Thanks for subscribing!


"I hope you will find this year's questions thought-provoking, and that you will be one of the thousands of contestants from over a hundred different countries to submit an essay to what has become the world's largest competition of its kind. Not only will the experience of researching and writing the essay be a valuable learning experience, but the shortlisted candidates will be invited to Oxford to join with other talented young people who have thought carefully about the same question, for a unique series of precepts under the experienced leadership of an academic expert."

Martin Cox, Director of the John Locke Institute

Q. I missed the registration deadline. May I still register or submit an essay?

A. No. Only candidates who registered before 31 May will be able to submit an essay this year. 

Q. Are footnote s, endnotes, a bibliography or references counted towards the word limit?

A. No. Only the body of the essay is counted. However, you may not use footnotes: please use endnotes instead. 

Q. Are in-text citations counted towards the word limit? ​

A. If you are using an in-text based referencing format, such as APA, your in-text citations are included in the word limit.

Q. Should citations be footnotes or in-text citations? ​

A. We do not allow footnotes. Please use in-text citations or endnotes

Q. Is it necessary to include foo tnotes or endnotes in an essay? ​

A. You  may not  include footnotes, but you may include endnotes. You should give your sources of any factual claims you make, and you should ackn owledge any other authors on whom you rely.​

Q. I submitted my essay before the rule about footnotes was changed. I've used footnotes so my essay does not comply with the prohibition of their use. What should I do?

A. Nothing. You will not be penalized in any way. As long as you followed the rules as they were when you submitted your essay, your essay has been accepted and is being considered like any other.  

Q. I am interested in a question that seems ambiguous. How should I interpret it?

A. You may interpret a question as you deem appropriate, clarifying your interpretation if necessary. Having done so, you must answer the question as directly as possible.

Q. How strict are  the age eligibility criteria?

A. Only students whose nineteenth birthday falls after 30 June 2023 will be eligible for a prize or a commendation. In the case of the Junior category, only students whose fifteenth birthday falls after 30 June 2023 will be eligible for a prize or a commendation. 

Q. May I submit more than one essay?

A. Yes, you may submit as many essays as you please in any or all categories.

Q. If I am eligible to compete in the Junior category, may I also (or instead) compete in another category?

A. Yes, you may.

Q. May I team up with someone else to write an essay?  

A. No. Each submitted essay must be entirely the work of a single individual.

Q. May I use AI, such as ChatGPT or the like, in writing my essay?

A. All essays will be checked for the use of AI. If we find that any content is generated by AI, your essay will be disqualified. We will also ask you, upon submission of your essay, whether you used AI for  any  purpose related to the writing of your essay, and if so, you will be required to provide details. In that case, if, in our judgement, you have not provided full and accurate details of your use of AI, your essay will be disqualified. 

Since any use of AI (that does not result in disqualification) can only negatively affect our assessment of your work relative to that of work that is done without using AI, your safest course of action is simply not to use it at all. If, however, you choose to use it for any purpose, we reserve the right to make relevant judgements on a case-by-case basis and we will not enter into any correspondence. 

Q. May I have someone else edit, or otherwise help me with, my essay?

A. You may of course discuss your essay with others, and it is perfectly acceptable for them to offer general advice and point out errors or weaknesses in your writing or content, leaving you to address them.

However, no part of your essay may be written by anyone else. This means that you must edit your own work and that while a proofreader may point out errors, you as the essayist must be the one to correct them. 

Q. Do I have to attend the awards ceremony to win a prize? ​

A. Nobody is required to attend the prize ceremony. You can win a prize without travelling to Oxford. But if we invite you to Oxford it is because your essay was good enough - in the opinion of the First Round judges - to be at least a contender for First, Second or Third Prize. Normally the Second Round judges will agree that the short-listed essays are worth at least a commendation.

Q. Is there an entry fee?

A. No. There is no charge to enter our global essay competition unless you submit your essay after the normal deadline, in which case there is a fee of 20.00 USD .

Q. Can I receive a certificate for my participation in your essay competition if I wasn't shortlisted? 

A. No. Certificates are awarded only for shortlisted essays. Short-listed contestants who attend the award ceremony in Oxford will receive a paper certificate. If you cannot travel to Oxford, you will be able to download your eCertificate.

Q. Can I receive feedba ck on my essay? 

A. We would love to be able to give individual feedback on essays but, unfortunately, we receive too many entries to be able to comment on particular essays.

Q. The deadline for publishing the names of short-listed essayists has passed but I did not receive an email to tell me whether I was short-listed.

A. Log into your account and check "Shortlist Status" for (each of) your essay(s).


Q. The system will not accept my essay. I have checked the filename and it has the correct format. What should I do?  

A. You have almost certainly added a space before or after one of your names in your profile. Edit it accordingly and try to submit again.

Q. The profile page shows my birth date to be wrong by a day, even after I edit it. What should I do?

A. Ignore it. The date that you typed has been correctly input to our database. ​ ​

Q. How can I be sure that my registration for the essay competition was successful? Will I receive a confirmation email?

A. You will not receive a confirmation email. Rather, you can at any time log in to the account that you created and see that your registration details are present and correct.


If you are unable to submit your essay to the John Locke Institute’s global essay competition, your problem is almost certainly one of the following.

If so, please proceed as indicated.

1) PROBLEM: I receive the ‘registrations are now closed’ message when I enter my email and verification code. SOLUTION. You did not register for the essay competition and create your account. If you think you did, you probably only provided us with your email to receive updates from us about the competition or otherwise. You may not enter the competition this year.

2) PROBLEM I do not receive a login code after I enter my email to enter my account. SOLUTION. Enter your email address again, checking that you do so correctly. If this fails, restart your browser using an incognito window; clear your cache, and try again. Wait for a few minutes for the code. If this still fails, restart your machine and try one more time. If this still fails, send an email to [email protected] with “No verification code – [your name]” in the subject line.


3) PROBLEM: The filename of my essay is in the correct format but it is rejected. SOLUTION: Use “Edit Profile” to check that you did not add a space before or after either of your names. If you did, delete it. Whether you did or did not, try again to submit your essay. If submission fails again, email [email protected] with “Filename format – [your name]” in the subject line.

4) PROBLEM: When trying to view my submitted essay, a .txt file is downloaded – not the .pdf file that I submitted. SOLUTION: Delete the essay. Logout of your account; log back in, and resubmit. If resubmission fails, email [email protected] with “File extension problem – [your name]” in the subject line.

5) PROBLEM: When I try to submit, the submission form just reloads without giving me an error message. SOLUTION. Log out of your account. Open a new browser; clear the cache; log back in, and resubmit. If resubmission fails, email [email protected] with “Submission form problem – [your name]” in the subject line.

6) PROBLEM: I receive an “Unexpected Error” when trying to submit. SOLUTION. Logout of your account; log back in, and resubmit. If this resubmission fails, email [email protected] with “Unexpected error – [your name]” in thesubject line. Your email must tell us e xactly where in the submission process you received this error.

7) PROBLEM: I have a problem with submitting and it is not addressed above on this list. SOLUTION: Restart your machine. Clear your browser’s cache. Try to submit again. If this fails, email [email protected] with “Unlisted problem – [your name]” in the subject line. Your email must tell us exactly the nature of your problem with relevant screen caps.


Do not email us before you have tried the specified solutions to your problem.

Do not email us more than once about a single problem. We will respond to your email within 72 hours. Only if you have not heard from us in that time may you contact us again to ask for an update.

If you email us regarding a problem, you must include relevant screen-shots and information on both your operating system and your browser. You must also declare that you have tried the solutions presented above and had a good connection to the internet when you did so.

If you have tried the relevant solution to your problem outlined above, have emailed us, and are still unable to submit before the 30 June deadline on account of any fault of the John Locke Institute or our systems, please do not worry: we will have a way to accept your essay in that case. However, if there is no fault on our side, we will not accept your essay if it is not submitted on time – whatever your reason: we will not make exceptions for IT issues for which we are not responsible.

We reserve the right to disqualify the entries of essayists who do not follow all provided instructions, including those concerning technical matters.


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