John Locke Essay Competition

John Locke Institute Essay Competition is hosted by John Locke Institute, an independent educational organization located in Oxford, UK. Professors at the John Locke Institute are from famous universities like Oxford, Princeton, Brown, and Buckingham University.
Interested in the competition?
John Locke Essay Competition

Competition Overview

14 to 18 years old
Entry fee
June 30, 2024
Submission deadline
July 10, 2024
Late entry deadline
July 31, 2024
Notification of short-listed essayists
September 21, 2024
Academic conference & awards dinners

Competition Details

1. Eligibility
Students from all countries and schools can participate. There are two levels of the competition, one for high school students from 15 to 18 years old and the Junior Prize, focused on middle school students 14 years old and younger.

2. Subject categories
There are seven subject categories (excluding Junior Category): Philosophy, Politics, Economics, History, Psychology, Theology, and Law. Each essay must address only one of the questions in your chosen subject category, not exceeding 2000 words (not counting diagrams, tables of data, footnotes, bibliography or authorship declaration).

3. Results
Shortlisted essays will be notified by July 31 and receive an invitation to Oxford for an academic conference and awards dinner in September, where the prize-winners will be announced. The dinner is completely optional.

4. Prizes
Winners of the subject categories and the Junior category will receive a $2000 scholarship towards the cost of attending any John Locke Institute program, and the essays will be published on the Institute’s website. The winner of 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.

How to Win the John Locke Essay Competition?

Take the time to understand the essay prompt and what the question is asking for. Students could approach questions in several ways, but it should always link to John Locke’s philosophy.

Once you decide on your stance about the question, it’s important to present your argument with logical reasoning and strong evidence from reputable sources. Students can utilize a variety of reputable sources, including academic journals, books, and scholarly articles, to gather relevant information and develop a well-informed argument.

In addition to providing reasoning and evidence that support students’ arguments, students can also examine alternative perspectives to show that they have the ability to evaluate evidence critically– specifically the strengths and weaknesses of different viewpoints.

Competition Questions

1. Philosophy
Q1. Do we have any good reasons to trust our moral intuition?
Q2. Do girls have a right to compete in sporting contests that exclude boys?
Q3. Should I be held responsible for what I believe?

2. Politics
Q1. Is there such a thing as too much democracy?
Q2. Is peace in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip possible?​
Q3. When is compliance complicity?

3. Economics
Q1. What is the optimal global population?
Q2. Accurate news reporting is a public good. Does it follow that news agencies should be funded from taxation?
​Q3. Do successful business people benefit others when making their money, when spending it, both, or neither?

4. History
Q1. Why was sustained economic growth so rare before the later 18th century and why did this change?
Q2. Has music ever significantly changed the course of history?
Q3. Why do civilisations collapse? Is our civilisation in danger?

5. Psychology
Q1. According to a study by researchers at four British universities, for each 15-point increase in IQ, the likelihood of getting married increases by around 35% for a man but decreases by around 58% for a woman. Why?
Q2. There is an unprecedented epidemic of depression and anxiety among young people. Can we fix this? How?
Q3. What is the difference between a psychiatric illness and a character flaw?

6. Theology
Q1. “I am not religious, but I am spiritual.” What could the speaker mean by “spiritual”?
Q2. Is it reasonable to thank God for protection from some natural harm if He is responsible for causing the harm?
Q3. Does God reward those who believe in him? If so, why?

7. Law
Q1. When, if ever, should a company be permitted to refuse to do business with a person because of that person’s public statements?
Q2. In the last five years British police have arrested several thousand people for things they posted on social media. Is the UK becoming a police state?
​Q3. Your parents say that 11pm is your bedtime. But they don’t punish you if you don’t go to bed by 11pm. Is 11pm really your bedtime?

8. Junior Prize
Q1. Does winning a free and fair election automatically confer a mandate for governing?
Q2. Has the anti-racism movement reduced racism?
​Q3. Is there life after death?
​Q4. How did it happen that governments came to own and run most high schools, while leaving food production to private enterprise?
​Q5. When will advancing technology make most of us unemployable? What should we do about this?
Q6. Should we trust fourteen-year-olds to make decisions about their own bodies?

John Locke Essay Competition Past Winning Essays

Submission details

All entries must be submitted by 11.59 pm BST on the submission deadline: Sunday, 30 June 2024.

1. Word Limit
2000 words (not counting diagrams, tables of data, endnotes, bibliography or authorship declaration)

2. Filename format 

3. Academic Reference
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 referees to verify that the essays submitted are indeed the original work of the candidates.

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