2022 Global ESSAY Competition

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 favourite essay from each subject category and an overall 'best essay' across seven subjects: Philosophy, Politics, Economics, History, Psychology, Theology and Law.

Submissions for our 2022 Global Essay Competition are now closed

We will acknowledge all shortlisted contestants by Thursday 14 July 2022.

If you haven’t received an email by then, please check your spam folder.


Q1. How likely is the multiverse? Would it change anything if (somehow) we came to know the theory was true?

Q2. If our actions are a consequence of our capacities and preferences, and if those things are, in turn, a result of our genetic inheritance and the external world in which we happen to find ourselves, are we ultimately responsible for our choices?


Q3. Is it moral to take money from people through the force of law in order to pay philosophers to philosophize?

Q4. When, if ever, can acts involving only consenting adults be morally wrong?



Q1. Should we allow political donations?


Q2. What, if anything, do rich nations owe poor nations?


Q3. Is there such a thing as a common good?

Q4. Is the good citizen always a good person? Is the good person always a good citizen?


Q1. Is Bitcoin a blessing or a curse?

Q2. What’s wrong with the housing market? How can we fix it?


Q3. Should Amazon pay people more? What would happen if they immediately increased every worker’s salary by twenty percent?

Q4.  Is Henry George’s land value tax fair, efficient, both, or neither?


Q1. Was there anything good about the British empire?


Q2. Is China an imperial power?


Q3. Is Western civilization in decline?

Q4. Do leaders make events or do events make leaders?


Q1. Are we getting nastier?


Q2. Are men and women psychologically different? Does it matter?


Q3. Is there any mental illness that isn’t ultimately physical?

Q4. Does it make sense to hate someone for his or her opinions?


Q1. Why would God be so coy?


Q2. “The God of the Bible and the Koran is a primitive human’s idea of a great being… But that is not what an actual supreme being would be like.” Is there a holy book that manifests divine authorship?


Q3. “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Can one be a Christian without believing in the miraculous resurrection of Jesus?

Q4. Is faith anything other than uncertain belief on incomplete evidence?


Q1. Does prison work?


Q2. “People who serve on juries are ill-informed, prejudiced, and not clever enough to avoid jury service.” Should we abolish Trial by Jury?


Q3. Should “hate crime” be punished more severely than the same crime with different motives?

Q4. What is the relationship between justice and law?

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Q1. Which existential threat are humans underestimating?


Q2. What should the age of consent be for irreversible sex reassignment surgery?


Q3. Were the lockdowns worth it?


Q4. What does it mean for people to be equal?


Q5. What would happen if there were a one hundred percent inheritance tax?


Q6. If you could travel by time machine for your next holiday, which time and place would you visit? What preparations would you make for your journey? What challenges would you face in the first twenty-four hours, and how would you handle them?


Q7. Should some things be legal to give away but illegal to sell?

For Question 7 we recommend you read Markets Without Limits: Moral Virtues and Commercial Interests by Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski and Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale by Debra Satz.



Entry Requirements


Entry is open to students from any country. Candidates must be eighteen years old, or younger, on the date of the submission deadline, 30 June 2022. (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 attachment should read SURNAME, First Name, Category, Question Number (e.g. POPHAM, Alexander, Psychology, Q2). 

Key Dates​

  • 30 June, 2022: Submission deadline


  • 14 July, 2022: Short-listed candidates notified

  • 27 August, 2022: Awards Dinner for the Junior Prize


  • 3 September, 2022: Awards Dinner for the Economics Prize   


  • 10 September, 2022: Awards Dinner for the History Prize


  • 17 September, 2022: Awards Dinner for the Politics Prize and the Law Prize


  • 24 September, 2022: Awards Dinner for the Philosophy Prize and the Theology Prize


  • 1 October, 2022: Awards Dinner for the Psychology Prize


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. 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, 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.


Essays will be judged on the level of knowledge and understanding of the relevant material, the competent use of evidence, the quality of argumentation, the structure, writing style and persuasive force. Candidates are advised to answer the question as precisely and directly as possible.

Sign up to receive updates, reading suggestions, and helpful tips on writing a winning essay:


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

A. We receive a great many submissions. We will write to all candidates by Wednesday 14 July 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.


Q. Are footnotes or bibliography or reference list counted towards the word limit?


A. No. Only the body of the essay is counted.  

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. Is it necessary to include footnotes in an essay?


A. You don’t need to include footnotes, but you should give your sources of any factual claims you make, and you should acknowledge any other authors on whom you rely.

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


A. We don't impose any rules for citations. We leave this to your discretion.


Q. How strict is the age eligibility criteria?


A. Only students whose nineteenth birthday falls after 30 June 2022 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 2022 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. Do I have to attend the award 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 for submitting essays to our global essay competition.