Oxford University Essay Competitions

St Peter's College has established two essay prizes in Philosophy, the top prize being to the value of £250, the second prize being to the value of £150. In addition to monetary prizes, all submitted essays which in the opinion of the judges are of a high enough standard will be commended. (Sadly, other academic obligations prevent the judges offering more substantive engagement with entrants.) The prizes will be advertised annually.

The aims of the prizes are to provide for students in Year 12 or the Lower 6th an opportunity to write about a philosophical issue and thereby, it is hoped, enable them to develop their abilities for independent research and thought, and encourage them to apply for an undergraduate course with Philosophy as an element.

Criteria for Entering the Competition

Entrants must be in Year 12 (or Lower 6th year) at their school or college during the academic year 2016-17. Essays must be a maximum of 2000 words in length and should seek to answer one of the questions set for the year (see below). All essays must contain the full name of the author on the first page. Accompanying the essay entrants must submit a completed entry form, which can be downloaded here. Submissions should be sent electronically to Anne Millard, Fellows’ Secretary at St Peter’s College (fellows.secretary@spc.ox.ac.uk), to arrive by the closing date.

Criteria for Assessment

In assessing the essays, the judges will reward clarity of thought and expression and cogency in argumentation.

Questions for the 2017 competition:

1) Could we have reason to do what we don’t want to do?

2) Could we ever see an empty space?

Closing Date

The closing date for submissions this year is 11 September 2017. It is hoped to notify winners by the beginning of November.

The Edgar Jones Philosophy Essay Competition


Staton Essay Prize 2017

Revolution & Dissent


‘Revolution’ and ‘dissent’ resonate across cultures and through time. They are represented in responses from writers, artists, politicians, theologians, historians, philosophers, economists – thinkers of every sort. 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg; 100 years ago French troops on the Western Front mutinied and the Bolsheviks toppled the Tsar in the Russian Revolution, and 50 years ago the Sexual Offenses Act decriminalised homosexuality in the UK.  In 2017, the British government invoked Article 50 and began the process of Brexit and Donald Trump became the 45th President of the USA: are these dissenting and revolutionary events?


The Staton Essay Prize is an interdisciplinary essay competition open to all students currently studying in Year 12 anywhere in the UK (or its equivalent in the EU and internationally).


The interdisciplinary character of the competition reflects our specialism at Regent’s Park College, in teaching and research across the Humanities and Social Sciences, and the success of our students on joint degree programmes.


The aim of the competition is to give school pupils the opportunity to explore connections between the subjects they study or are interested in, to develop their independent research skills, and to encourage them to consider interdisciplinary courses at university.




The closing date for entries will be Friday 28 July; all will be acknowledged by letter in the autumn and entrants whose work is commended by the judges will receive certificates. One top prize will be awarded in each of three categories (contemporary worlds, historical worlds, and literary worlds); £250 for the best essay overall, and a further two £150 prizes. The three prize-winners will be invited to a special awards dinner in College, to which they may bring guests, which usually takes place at the end of October.




In NO MORE than 2000 words, answer ONE question from this list:


Contemporary Worlds category:

In this category, entrants could combine subjects like contemporary history (1980s onwards), economics, philosophy, religious studies, and politics.

(1) ‘The revolution will not be televised’ (Gil Scott-Heron). How important is the media in revolution and protest?

(2) Is dissent a sign of a healthy democracy?

(3) Do you agree that ‘poverty is the parent of revolution and crime’ (Aristotle)? 


Historical Worlds category:

In this category, entrants could combine subjects like ancient history, archaeology, classical literature, history (from the fall of Rome to 1979), philosophy, and religious studies.

(4) Do protest movements gain momentum because of a unifying ideology or charismatic leadership?

(5) Do revolutions always end in disappointment?

(6) Is protest more effective if it is underpinned with violence?


Literary Worlds category:

In this category, entrants could combine subjects like classical literature, English language, English literature, history (any period), philosophy, and religious studies.

(7) ‘The World Turned-Upside-Down’ (title of a pamphlet from the English Civil War). Do you think that works of literature turn worlds upside down or stabilize them?

(8) ‘Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress?’ (J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince). Do you agree?

(9) In what ways do revolutions spur literary creativity?




Your essay must bring together two or more subjects OR combine a subject you are studying with a personal interest.


Include a list of all the sources (including online resources and websites) that you have used to research and write your essay. This list is not included in the word count.


The competition will be judged by College tutors in the relevant disciplines; unfortunately, essays will not be returned and the judges cannot provide feedback (written or verbal) to entrants.


The judges will reward sophistication in the level of engagement between disciplines, clarity of thought and expression, and the careful choice of examples.


The judges’ decisions are final, and they reserve the right not to award a prize in any category if they consider that none of the entries reach the required standard.


Submit your essay as a Word document, with a completed title page, to: essay@regents.ox.ac.uk.


Please ensure that ONLY your initials and date of birth appear on EACH PAGE of the essay.


To download a title page for your essay, click here.


The College cannot accept faxed entries.


Closing date: Friday 28 July 2017

Winners will be announced in the week beginning Monday 25 September



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