Secondary school philosophy essay competition 2020

Philosophy students in a seminar.

About the competition

The Sheffield Philosophy Essay Prize is an annual competition for Years 10, 11 and 12.

The aims of this prize are threefold: firstly, to widen interest in philosophy and in studying philosophy at university level among students who would not otherwise be exposed to the subject; secondly, to encourage ambitious and talented secondary school students considering applying to university to study philosophy; and thirdly, to recognize the achievements both of high-calibre students and of those who teach them.  The competition is run by the Department of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield.

Application information

What to write

Write an essay of around 1,000 words (but not more than 1,500 words) on one of the following topics. Include a bibliography. Essays must be typed, saved as a Word or RTF document and submitted online through the submission link on the main prize page.

The deadline for submissions is midnight, Friday 27 March 2020.  Winners will be announced by Friday 17 April 2020.

Please remember to keep a copy of your essay for your own records. Since we will provide brief comments on every submitted essay, you may wish to consult your original submission again in light of these comments.

For more information contact Edd Poole:

  • Telephone: +44 1142 229704
  • Email:


You may submit an essay answering any one of the questions below.  To help start you off, we have suggested a resource for each question.  You do not have to write about each resource, these are just places for you to begin to explore each topic. If you wish, you may also choose your own question to write your essay - you can write about any philosophical issue you find interesting. Whatever question you choose to answer, make sure to write it down at the top of your essay. Good luck!

  1. Is Epicurus right that a wise person does not fear death? (Suggested resource)

  2. Are referenda truly democratic? (Suggested resource)

  3. Do you think political violence can ever be justified? (Suggested resource

  4. What is truth? (Suggested resource)

  5. Is time travel possible? (Suggested resource)

How to submit

Please email with the subject ‘Philosophy Essay Prize’. Include the following information in the email:

  • Students’ full name
  • Students’ date of birth
  • Contact email address
  • Students’ school (name and address)
  • Please specify what kind of school this is: (e.g. State Comprehensive, State Grammar school, State Boarding school, Faith school/Faith Academy, Private/Independent school, Other- please specify)
  • Is this school fee paying? Yes/No
  • Students’ address and postcode (to send any prizes)
  • Whether the student would be happy to be contacted about future events, including Open Days

Please attach your entry to the email with no personal information on it as entries will be judged anonymously.

A world top-100 university

We're a world top-100 university renowned for the excellence, impact and distinctiveness of our research-led learning and teaching.