Lloyd Davies Philosophy Prize

Established in 2006, the Lloyd Davies Philosophy Prize is an essay competition open to students in Year 12 or the Lower 6th. The first prize is £250, and there may also be a second prize of £150.

The purpose of the Prize is:

  • To give students in Year 12 or the Lower 6th who are considering applying to a University an opportunity to write about a subject they are interested in. This should enable them to develop their abilities for independent research and thought in Philosophy.
  • To support teachers of able pupils by providing interesting and challenging further work in Philosophy and by bringing such students into contact with Higher Education.
  • To encourage able students to consider applying to study Philosophy, either at Oxford or at another university, by giving them some experience of the type of work involved.
  • To recognise the achievement and effort of the best of those who apply through prizes and commendations. Note: the judges are not able to provide feedback on any essays.

Assessment Criteria

Entrants should be in Year 12 (or equivalent) at their school or college. The judges will look for originality of thought, a clear grasp of the issues, clarity in presentation and a critical approach to what has been read. They will also look for a clear structure to the essay.

How to Apply

Essays should be no more than 2,500 words in length and should be on one of the topics listed below. Essays should be word processed and submitted by email in either Word or PDF format to admissions@oriel.ox.ac.uk. A font size of 12pt or greater should be used, and the page margins should be set to no less than 1 inch. Entries must be sent with a completed entry form, which is available to download below. Please include a bibliography (note: this does not count towards the word limit).

Essays must be received by 12 noon on Monday 21st June 2021.

Download the entry form.

Questions for 2021 Competition

Those wishing to enter the 2021 essay competition should answer one of the following questions:

  1. Do you know that you are not dreaming right now? If so, how? If not, does it matter?
  2. Does it really matter whether we have a free will or not? 
  3. Should we rethink the nature and limits of freedom of speech in the internet age? 

2020 Competition Result

This year we had a record number of entries. Two essays have been chosen as joint winners:

  • Kunal Barman's (St Edward’s School) essay on the question: should vaccines be compulsory? Read Kunal's essay here.


  • Elliott Bonal's (Ecole Diagonale, France) essay answering the question: Is it rational to believe in the existence of viruses but not to believe in the existence of dark matter? Read Elliott's essay here.

The general standard of entries was high. The assessors wish to single out for special mention the essays by

  • Bruce, Edward (Ralph Allen School)
  • Walsh, Oliver (Royal Grammar School)

The essays by

  • Orkeny, Bence (ELTE, Radnoti Miknlos Gyakorlo Altalanos Iskola es Gyakorlo Gimnazium, Hungary)
  • Yang, Joanne (Seoul International School)
  • Pang, Gabriel (Comberton Sixth Form)
  • O’ Gorman, Tom (Brighton College)
  • Goel, Abhay (Westminster School)
  • Frasheri, Allan (Largo High School)

were also highly commended.

2019 Competition Result

The joint winners of the 2019 competition were Matthew Drury (Loughborough Grammar School) and Tom Francis (Twyford CofE High School). Matthew and Tom each received prizes of £200 and you can read their winning essays below:

Matthew Drury

Loughborough Grammar School

Read his winning essay here.



Tom Francis

Twyford CofE High School

Read his winning essay here.



In addition to the joint winners, our tutors highly commended the essays of the following three entrants:

  • Alessandro Coppola, Malvern College (Title 3)
  • Kai Kobashi, Kaetsu Ariake High School (Title 2)
  • Shrinidhi Prakash, St Olave's Grammar School (Title 1)

2018 Competition Result

The joint winners of the 2018 competition were: Francoise Nel and Lucy Psaila. Francoise and Lucy each receive prizes of £200 and you can read their winning essays below: