2023 Global ESSAY Competition
Registrations are now open. Click here to register.
Important: Our entry requirements and submission system have changed substantially.
Please read the section New Entry Requirements carefully.
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 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?
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?
NEW ENTRY REQUIREMENTS &
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.
All candidates must register for the competition by 11.59 pm BST on the registration deadline: 31 May 2023. Registration requires an active email address to which the candidate has access. We cannot accept submissions from candidates who have not registered by the deadline.
Registration are now open. Click here to register.
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, footnotes, 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.
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 the 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.
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.
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 nobody 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.
Registration 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@example.com. 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.
"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. 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. Should citations be footnotes or in-text citations?
A. We don't impose any rules for citations. We leave this to your discretion.
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. 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. 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 feedback 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 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.