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Rex Nettleford Prize for Year-12 Students: Essays on Colonialism and its Legacies

About the Essay Competition

The Rex Nettleford Prize is an essay competition open to UK students who are currently in Year 12. The winner of the competition is awarded a prize of £250.

The purpose of the Prize is:

  • To promote awareness amongst students in Year 12 of issues relating to colonialism and its legacies.
  • To encourage students in Year 12 to develop their abilities for independent research and thought.
  • To support teachers of able pupils by providing interesting and challenging further work and by bringing such students into contact with Higher Education.
  • To encourage able students to consider applying to study subjects in the Humanities and Social Sciences, either at Oxford or at another university, by giving them experience of the type of work involved.
  • To recognise the effort and achievement of the most successful submissions by a prize and commendations.

Note: the judges will not able to provide feedback on submissions.

Assessment Criteria

  • Entrants should be based in the UK and be in Year 12 (or equivalent) at their school or college.
  • Students must address a topic that is not directly related to their A level course.
  • The judges will look for a clear grasp of issues addressed, clarity in structuring and presentation of the argument, a critical approach to primary and secondary source materials, and originality of thought.

How to Enter

  • Essays should be no more than 2,500 words in length and should be on ONE of the given questions below.
  • The candidate may answer the question they select from the perspective of any discipline of their choosing (e.g. History, English Literature, etc.) but they must indicate at the head of their essay which discipline they have chosen.
  • Essays should be word processed and submitted by email in either Word or PDF format to: outreach@oriel.ox.ac.uk.
  • A font size not less than 12pt should be used; page margins should be set to no less than 2.54cm.
  • Essays should be accompanied by a bibliography, which does not count towards the word limit.
  • Entries must be sent with a completed entry form, which is available to download below.
  • Submissions should be accompanied by a signed statement from a teacher that the essay is the student’s original, unaided work and that it does not directly relate to the syllabuses of the A level subjects they are studying. This form is available to download below.

Essays must be received by 12 noon on Friday 17th March 2023.

Prizes will be awarded at Oriel College on the occasion of the Rex Nettleford Lecture during Trinity Term 2023.

Questions for the 2023 Competition

Candidates must answer ONE of the following questions. Candidates should feel free to focus their answer in terms of its historical period, geographical centre and cultural range.

  1. What role do the arts play in the creation or challenging of racialized hierarchies?
  2. Pick an object that you think illuminates the legacies of colonialism, and explain why and how.
  3. How long do the legacies of colonialism last?
  4. “The truth is one and same, everywhere in the universe. Therefore, proposals to de-colonise academic curricula are wrong-headed.” Discuss.
Download the entry form
Download the teacher declaration form

2022 Competition Result

The previous winners were Alisha Mafaas and Panod Pongpattanapun.

Alisha Mafaas’s essay had an historical focus and explored the colonisation of Sri Lanka by the Portuguese from 1505 to 1658, looking at how language was an essential tool in the assertion of colonial domination, and how linguistic influences continue long after colonies have been relinquished.

Read Alisha’s essay here

Panod Pongpattanapun’s essay also explored the topic of language as a tool of colonial domination, making use of linguistic theory to discuss the effects of languages in colonial policies in South Africa during the period of British colonial domination from the early 1800s.

Read Panod’s essay here

Special commendations were also awarded to the following students for their entries:

Lamisa Ahad, Taslima Begum, Ronan Dhadra, James Hunter, Cameron McNaughton-Smith, and Samuel Richardson.

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