2014 Essay Competitions

Pupils intending to apply to study Religious Studies, Theology or Philosophy at university would do well to enter an essay competition.  This is particularly true of those who would like to apply for Oxbridge. 

Below you will find a brief overview of some of the current competitions with key relevant details.  Links in the sidebar boxes will take you to the webpage containing full entry details and entry forms.

Current 2014 Competitions:

Oriel College Oxford:

Ending soon: Oriel runs a competition open to year twelve students. Last year they only had 47 entries, so definitely worth a shot! First prize is £250.  Deadline is Wednesday 11th June and winners will be announced by 30th June.

  • 1. Could you wake up to find yourself in a different body?
  • 2. If the state of the world before you are born together with the laws of nature determine every action that you perform, in what sense are you morally responsible for anything that you do?
  • 3. What, if anything, is wrong with inequality?

St Peter's College Oxford:

Runs a philosophy essay competition open to year twelve pupils.  The maximum word count is 2,000 words and the prize is £250.  The closing date is 12th September 2014.  More details on their website.

  • 1. Does the fact that our senses can deceive mean that we can have no perceptual knowledge?
  • 2. Could you be a bad person and yet do the right thing all the time?

University of Gloucester:

Newly released details: The University of Gloucester runs a RS and Philosophy competition open to both year twelve and year thirteen pupils.  First prize is an ipad with amazon vouchers for runners up. The word limit is 1,500 (including footnotes) words and the deadline is October 24th.  The website says that the essay can be any form (i.e Platonic style dialogues permitted!). Entries should be submitted by email to dwebster@glos.ac.ukFurther details on their website.

The winning essay will be published in RE Today. 

  • 1. What is the proper role of religion in a modern, secular society?
  • 2. If you had a time machine, would it be wrong to travel back and kill Hitler?
  • 3. Does science give us an accurate picture of 'how the world is'?

Candle Conferences

Candle Conferences run a Thinking Allowed essay competition open to both year twelve and thirteen.  The deadline last year was in September and the prize was £200 plus ten tickets to Candle Conference events.  Titles for this year yet to be released.

St John's College:

St John's offers the Wilkinson essay prize for essays of 2,000-4,000 words on a range of topics.  They will release questions later in the year. Last year first prize was £750 plus a week staying in the college using the library resources and possibly visiting a relevant univeristy department.

2015 Essay Competitions:

Corpus Christi:

Corpus Christi College has an annual essay competition in various subject.  Deadline this year was Feb 14th.

Girton College:

Girton runs a competition which is open to year twelve with an entry date in March. Their competition is a humanities writing prize rather than a subject-specific essay competition. Last year they were looking for writing inspired by one of six objects from their museum (their website has pictures). They accepted both essays and creative responses. This would be particularly good for anyone applying for a joint honours course who wants to show how inter-disciplinary they can be. Maximum word limit is 1,800 words, though responses (especially creative writing) can be shorter. First prize was £300.

Heythrop College:

Heythrop College runs a competitions open to both year twelve and thirteen (upper and lower sixth). The closing date last year was the end of April and the prizes were £500 for first prize, £100 for second and £50 for third with £10 each for fourth, fifth and sixth.  The word lengths was 1,500 words.

Keble College Oxford:

Keble's competition is open to year twelve and thirteen.  The prize last year was £300 and the word length 1,500 words.  Prize winners also got invited to a day at the college.  Their website specified that the essay must be written specifically for the competition and pupils can only enter one essay.  Entries can be posted or emailed.

Trinity College Cambridge:

Trinity College offers separate Philosophy and Theology Competitions.  The competitions are open to year twelve (lower sixth only). Last year both competitions had a word limit of 2,000-4,000 words.  First prize was£600 split between the candidate and their school.  Second prize was £400.   Last year the deadline was the end of May.


If you know of any other relevant competitions that should be added to this page then please do email me using the form below.

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.