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Applying to University

John Locke Institute Essay Competition - 2018

Samuel Chadwick (Mill Hill School, London, UK) - Overall Winner of the 2016 Essay Competition, receiving his award from Martin Cox, Director of the John Locke Institute

Dennis Klieber - President of the John Locke Institute Alumni Association, giving a speech at the dinner

We are pleased to announce that the John Locke Institute 2018 Essay Competition is now open. Deadline for submissions is Tuesday, 31 July 2018.


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. The John Locke Institute 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 academics from the University of Oxford. The judges will choose their favourite essay from each subject category and an overall 'best essay' across the four subjects: Philosophy, Politics, Economics and History.


A small number of exceptional candidates will be invited to Oxford ahead of the awards ceremony for a viva voce interview with 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. 


Entry Requirements

Entry is open to students from any country and any school. Candidates must be eighteen years old or younger on the date of the submission deadline, 31 July 2018. 


Submission Instructions

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 as an email attachment, saved in pdf format. Both the subject line of the email and the title of the pdf attachment should read SURNAME First Name Subject Category Question Number (e.g. POPHAM Alexander Politics Q2). 

Submit your essay now.


Key Dates


Tuesday, 31 July 2018: Submission deadline

Tuesday, 14 August: Short-listed candidates notified

Friday, 14 September: Winners Announced at Awards Ceremony in Oxford



There is a prize for the best essay in each subject category, Philosophy, Politics, Economics and History. 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.



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.



2018 Essay Questions

For this year's subject-specific essay questions please click on one of the following links: PhilosophyPoliticsEconomics and History.




I haven't received an acknowledgement that my essay has been submitted. Have you received it?

We receive a great many submissions. We will write to all candidates by Tuesday 14 August when we announce the Short List. If you have not received an email by that date, you are welcome to email us to confirm that we did receive and consider your essay, but please check your spam folder first.


Are footnotes or bibliography counted towards the word limit?

No. Only the body of the essay is counted.  


How strict is the age eligibility criteria?

Only students whose nineteenth birthday falls after 31 July 2018 will be eligible for a prize or a commendation. 


May I submit more than one essay?

Yes, you may submit as many essays as you please.


What is a viva voce interview?

'Viva voce' is a Latin expression meaning 'with the living voice'. It is an interactive examination, oral rather than written, to explore in more detail certain questions raised in an essay. It gives the examiner a chance to make a more thorough judgment and gives the candidate an opportunity to demonstrate a wider knowledge of the subject.


I haven't been invited to Oxford for a viva voce interview. Does this mean I won't win a prize?

No, not at all. The viva voce invitations are issued after only the First Reading. Typically the short-listed essays are read three or even four times before a final judgment is made. If you are invited to an interview it is a good sign, but if you are not invited, or if you are invited but unavailable to attend, you may still be a subject category winner, or even the overall 2018 prize-winner.