Beyond the Classroom
Beyond the classroom
Experiences Dukes is home to the UK's leading summer school and activity day camp providers.
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The Dukes Essay Prize Our essay competition, based on the famous past All Souls, Oxford entrance exam, tests students' ingenuity and originality.
Poetry Together A nationwide scheme that brings young people and old people together to share in the joy of learning poetry by heart.

Dukes Education Essay Prize

Our Essay Prize is a nationwide scheme that encourages academic exploration, creativity, and lateral thinking in students in Yrs 11-12. Inspired by the famous past entrance exam for fellows at All Souls College, Oxford, students write an essay in response to a one-word title.

The Prize rewards creativity, lateral approaches, and engagement with a subject beyond the curriculum.

Details about the Essay Prize 2021 will be published on this page in due course.

You can find all winning and shortlisted essays of the 2020 competition below.

I am incredibly honoured and grateful for this opportunity. I hope my essay will inspire future students entering this competition as well as shed some light on the topic of gender roles in scientific communities.

Irina, Essay prize 2019, second place.

Winners of the Essay Prize 2020

We received 600 submissions from more than 150 different schools. This overwhelming response included truly creative and bold submissions, all written very much in the spirit of the Essay Prize.


Our panel of judges selected the following submissions:

Shortlisted Entries


We would like to congratulate all winners on their fantastic success and we very much look forward to next year’s competition.

What is it?

Our Essay Prize gives students the chance to follow their passions and explore subjects beyond the curriculum. It’s also the perfect opportunity to get a taste of university-style work assignments, and a prize is a great achievement to discuss on a personal statement.


Participants in the Essay Prize will be merited if they engage creatively with the title and build connections to their studied subjects – for example, an essay on the topic ‘Citizen’ from the perspective of English Literature, or ‘Value’ from the perspective of Philosophy and Mathematics. Students can choose any subject or combination of subjects for their essay.


The titles for the Essay Prize 2020 were:


  • Environment
  • Value
  • Citizen
  • Movement
  • Sequence
  • Vision
  • Duty

How does it work?

  • The competition opens each year in February. Current students in Years 11 & 12 (UK & international) can enter.
  • Essays must be written in response to one of the seven titles provided, and be no longer than 1,500 words. *Citations included. Bibliography excluded.
  • Essays be judged by the way they engage with the chosen subjects, their creativity, and the quality of the writing.
  • Winners will be chosen by a panel of education experts, through a blind judging process.
  • The first-place winner will receive £500. There’s a £250 prize for second place, and a £100 prize for third place.

How does the marking work?

The prize rewards creativity, lateral approaches, and engagement with a subject beyond the curriculum.


Every essay is anonymised for a blind marking process. Our judges do not know the name or school of any student, to make it as fair as possible.


The essays are reviewed by a panel of experts, including Oxbridge-educated tutors, the heads of the Dukes Education Consultancy, and a member from the Dukes Education Advisory Board. Over three rounds of marking, the three final winners are picked.

Guides for writing your essay

While thinking beyond subject boundaries is encouraged, students should ensure their submissions observe correct grammar, spelling, and reference rules. Please read the guide on footnotes and references, as well as the Essay Prize marking scheme to help you write a winning essay.

Download reference guide and marking scheme