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2021 International Affairs Essay Competition winners

Read the entries from four UVA undergraduates

The Virginia Journal of International Affairs , the University of Virginia’s only undergraduate foreign affairs research journal, partnered with the Miller Center and the International Relations Organization to sponsor an undergraduate essay competition examining lessons from past presidencies and history in general to inform the debate on contemporary policy challenges in international relations. All UVA undergraduates were invited to participate and responded to the following prompt:

In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden stated that “America is back.” Should the future ofAmerica’s foreign policy be one that embraces multilateralism or should it take a more unilateral approach? Use historical examples or case studies from prior presidential administrations to make your argument about the present. 

Winner: Caitlin Tierney

American exceptionalism as asymmetric multilateralism.

For four years, Trump’s unilateralist, protectionist, populist and “America First” policies shocked citizens of the United States and the world. After seeing the damage unilateralist foreign policy (especially when in the wrong hands) can cause, U.S. democrats long to return to the generally multilateral foreign policy approach that presidents have adhered to since WWII. Although a leader of many major international organizations, America’s unique position of arranging the post-WWII world order has created an asymmetric form of multilateralism that nominally is fully participatory and equal, but in fact gives favor to its founder. President Biden believes that “America is back” as the leader in the international field, but America cannot so easily return to this seat of preference and should assess that previous “American multilateralism” may verge closer to asymmetry or even partial unilateralism than the U.S. may be willing to admit.

President Biden simply claiming that “America is back” as a world leader is a hollow cry until actions follow. Fortunately, on day one of his term, Biden reentered key agreements such as the WHO, UNHRC, New START and Paris Agreement with more to follow. This gesture is important to signify an ideological change from the previous administration and agreement to multinational cooperation. The foundation of trust in the U.S., however, cracked with the election and actions of President Donald Trump, and, although Biden may be able to repair the rift, there will always be a weak spot of mistrust and uncertainty.


First runner-up: Robert McCoy

“america is back” isn’t enough: keeping unilateralism from droning on.

So far, President Biden’s assertions that “America is back” are proving honest. Undoing some of Trump’s unilateralist decisions, Biden has rejoined the Paris Climate agreement and United Nations Human Rights Council and halted the U.S.’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization. The Associated Press reported that Biden filling “his State Department with . . . veterans of the Obama administration” indicates a “desire to return to a more traditional foreign policy.” Many are relieved by this return to normalcy; Dr. Sana Vakil of Chatham House has said, “I’m quite optimistic about the gang getting back together again.”

But even the pre-Trump era of foreign policy Biden seems to be reviving was far from a halcyon period of multilateralism and adulation from the international community. In fact, a 2013 WIN/Gallup International poll conducted in 65 countries revealed the U.S. to be the international community’s “overwhelming choice…for the country that represents the greatest threat to peace in the world today.” A 2012 Pew Research Center poll of 20 countries found that, “[a]cross much of the globe, people continue to believe the U.S. acts unilaterally in world affairs.”

Second runner-up: Mithra Dhinakaran

“america is back” as it should be.

American multilateralism has swung on a pendulum since the birth of our nation. The question of whether to put America “first” or cooperate with other countries has always racked our foreign policy. From our involvement in foreign wars to our adoption of protectionist laws, the United States’ patterns of cooperation with global partners have had extraordinary ramifications on the whole world. While unilateralism has helped secure U.S. interests in some respects, multilateralism is the only way the current administration can effectively implement foreign policy in the modern globalized world. The future of America’s foreign policy should embrace multilateralism for several reasons. First, the U.S. is surrendering its share of global power and requires allies to support its policies. Second, the globalized economy compels political cooperation to reflect economic partnerships. Third, the U.S. must act in conjunction with other countries to tackle global issues.

First, while the U.S. may have been able to strongman other nations into acquiescence in the past, the U.S. no longer has the same political and economic capital. Similar to our experience with the Soviet Union in the Cold War, we face a rising superpower that seeks to assert its influence where the U.S. has fallen behind. If China succeeds in winning allies in the Global South, the U.S. will not be able to unilaterally challenge and overcome that influence. The U.S. should focus on strengthening ties with countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to build a stronger front. An example of the success of this strategy in the past is the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Honorable mention: Kirstin O'Donoghue

Recreating american foreign policy: replacing unilateralist nationalism with inclusive multilateralism.

President Biden assumed the presidency amidst several crises — the devastating COVID 19 pandemic, increasingly tense relations with China, and a persistent climate crisis. Each administration has confronted its own seemingly insurmountable challenges, and Biden’s predecessors have all left in their wakes mistakes and successes which defined the tenability of their approaches. Trump’s nationalism and America First doctrine wreaked havoc upon American foreign policy and have left foreign policy experts advocating for a return to American diplomacy and a restoration of our foreign policy. Though Biden’s election was a pivotal first step toward revitalizing American foreign policy and reforming our reputation on the global stage, Trump’s isolationist scars have not healed. Rather than a restoration, America is in desperate need of a newly constructed inclusive multilateral approach that involves historically suppressed actors from a variety of regions, civilian populations, and non-governmental organizations.

In making suggestions for Biden’s foreign policy approach, one must not fall prey to the myth that the United States before Trump was consistently a gregarious multilateral actor, sacrificing its domestic interests for the global good. Wilsonian multilateralism stood in stark contrast against Nixon’s unilateral retreat from Bretton Woods and Reagan’s termination of UNESCO. Obama’s retrenchment approach to foreign policy mirrored most closely those of Eisenhower and Nixon, which advocated a reduced commitment of U.S. resources and a greater share of the burden placed on allies. Any moral high ground that we possessed before Trump’s nationalist approach, even if this perception was founded upon shaky ground, we have lost.

Harvard International Review

HIR Academic Writing Contest

international relations essay competition 2021

The Harvard International Review is a quarterly magazine offering insight on international affairs from the perspectives of scholars, leaders, and policymakers. Since our founding in 1979, we've set out to bridge the worlds of academia and policy through outstanding writing and editorial selection.

The quality of our content is unparalleled. Each issue of the Harvard International Review includes exclusive interviews and editorials by leading international figures along with expert staff analysis of critical international issues. We have featured commentary by 43 Presidents and Prime Ministers, 4 Secretaries-General, 4 Nobel Economics Prize laureates, and 7 Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

The Contest

Inspired by our growing high school readership around the world, we have run the Harvard International Review Academic Writing Contest since 2020 to encourage and highlight outstanding high school writing on topics related to international affairs.

Contest Format

Participants in the contest submit a short-form article on a topic in international affairs. Each submission will be read and scored by the Harvard International Review .

A number of contestants will be selected as finalists, who are invited to participate in a virtual HIR Defense Day. At the Defense Day, students will have the opportunity to give a 15-minute presentation and oral defense to Harvard International Review judges.

Submission Guidelines

All submissions must adhere to the following requirements, as outlined in the Submission Guide below.

For the upcoming Spring 2024 contest, participants will have a choice of two different themes and must note which prompt they have chosen at the top of their submissions.

Theme A: Inequalities in a VUCA World

Theme B: Global Challenges and Collective Actions

Contestants may choose either topic above when writing the article.

Content: Articles should address a topic related to international affairs today. Potential categories include (but are not limited to): Agriculture, Business, Cybersecurity, Defense, Education, Employment & Immigration, Energy & Environment, Finance & Economy, Public Health, Science & Technology, Space, Trade, and Transportation. Articles should examine the theme from a global perspective rather than focusing on the United States.

Length: Articles should be at least 800 words but not exceed 1,200 words (not counting diagrams, tables of data, or authorship declaration).

Writing Style: Submissions should present an analytically backed perspective on an under-appreciated global topic.  

AI Policy : The usage of ChatGPT is prohibited. Judges will be running all articles through multiple AI checkers, and articles that receive high AI generation scores across multiple checkers will be disqualified.

Excellent contest submissions will aim to present a topic holistically from a balanced perspective. Evidence and nuance are critical. Submissions should be well-researched, well-informed, and formal in style and prose.

The HIR does not accept op-eds , otherwise known as editorials or opinion pieces for its competition. Articles are expected to have a thesis but should not have an agenda. Submissions should also not be merely a collection of facts.

As a journalist organization, we ask that submissions follow AP Style's newest edition . We also ask that submissions are culturally sensitive, fact-checked, and respectful.

Examples of pieces that would be considered excellent submissions are below.

international relations essay competition 2021

Citation and Sources : All factual claims must be backed by a citation from a reliable source. All ideas that are not your own must be properly attributed. Citations should be made via hyperlinks. Non-digital sources are welcome but must be cited properly as per AP Style . See the examples above for examples of using hyperlinks for citations.

Click Here: Submission Guide

Contest dates.

There are three distinct submission cycles for the 2024 Contest.

Please note that contestants are requested to register and pay before becoming eligible to submit their articles prior to the submission deadline.  

Admissions are done on a rolling basis! Capacity is limited.

Spring 2024

Article Submission Deadline: May 31, 2024

HIR Defense Day: June 29, 2024

Summer 2024

Article Submission Deadline: August 31, 2024

HIR Defense Day: October 5, 2024

Fall 2024 / Winter 2024

Article Submission Deadline: January 2, 2025

HIR Defense Day: February 5, 2025

Contest Prizes

All submissions will receive a score from the Harvard International Review based on the Evaluation Rubric described in the Submission Guide. Contestants that receive a passing score without qualifying for a HIR Defense Day will receive individual prizes. Finalists will be eligible for the following Gold/Silver/Bronze medals based on their scores and performance in the HIR Defense Day.

Commendation Prize: HIR Certificate

Outstanding Writing Content / Style Prize : HIR Certificate

High Commendation Prize : HIR Certificate

Bronze Medal : HIR Certificate and name listed on website (global top 20 percent)

Silver Medal: HIR Certificate and name listed on website (global top 10 percent)

Gold Medal: HIR Certificate and name listed on website (global top three percent)

All scoring and prize decisions are final. The contest will not be able to provide additional detail beyond the scores provided by HIR graders. All contestants who manage to submit their articles will receive a certificate of completion.

Contest Eligibility:

United States

Students are eligible if they are in grades nine through twelve in any of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories, or if they are U.S. citizens/lawful permanent residents attending high school overseas.


Students in countries outside of the United States (grades 9-12) are also welcome to submit. Submissions are expected to be written in English and with traditional American spelling. For more information on submissions in your country, please contact [email protected]

Register Here

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Since 1883, we have delivered The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition, the world's oldest international schools' writing competition. Today, we work to expand its reach, providing life-changing opportunities for young people around the world.

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The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2024 is now live!

Find out more about this year’s theme

'Our Common Wealth' and make sure to enter by 15 May 2024!


140 years of The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition

The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition (QCEC) is the world’s oldest international writing competition for schools and has been proudly delivered by the Royal Commonwealth Society since 1883. 



An opportunity for young Commonwealth citizens to share their thoughts, ideas and experiences on key global issues and have their hard work and achievement celebrated internationally.

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Frequently Asked Questions for the Competition. Before contacting us please read these.



In 2023 we were delighted to receive a record-breaking 34,924 entries, with winners from India and Malaysia. Read their winning pieces as well as those from previous years.



Terms and Conditions for entrants to The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition. Please ensure you have thoroughly read them before submitting your entry.

United States Institute of Peace

Contests for students.

The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) is committed to educating the next generation of peacebuilders about the U.S. role in preventing and resolving conflicts around the world, and about the important part that young people can play as engaged global citizens.

Starting in 1987, USIP challenged students to think critically about global issues of conflict and peace through the National Peace Essay Contest (NPEC). Now, USIP is building upon the legacy of the NPEC (which was wrapped up in 2014) by partnering with other organizations on a range of initiatives that inspire students to learn more about global peacebuilding and to put their own good ideas into action.

Make sure to explore our other resources for students, teachers, and the broader public by visiting the Public Education section. 

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Academic WorldQuest

Each year, the World Affairs Councils of America (WACA) engages more than 4,000 high school students across the U.S. in its signature quiz contest that tests their knowledge of global issues and foreign policy in 10 categories. Since 2016, USIP has been a co-sponsor of this national contest, ensuring the inclusion of a peace and conflict category in Academic WorldQuest each year. 

For the 2021 competition, USIP’s category is  “Exploring Peace in a World of Conflict,”  with featured resources that blend research, data, and real-life examples of peacebuilding in action. For more information, check out our Academic WorldQuest page! 

National High School Essay Contest

As a successor to USIP’s own National Peace Essay Contest, USIP has since 2015 partnered with the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) on its annual National High School Essay Contest. The contest engages high school students in learning and writing about issues of peace and conflict, and encourages appreciation for diplomacy’s role in building partnerships that can advance peacebuilding and protect national security. 

The winner of the contest receives a $2,500 cash prize, an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to meet leadership at the U.S. Department of State and USIP, and a full-tuition paid voyage with Semester at Sea upon the student’s enrollment at an accredited university. The runner-up receives a $1,250 cash prize and a full scholarship to participate in the International Diplomacy Program of the National Student Leadership Conference. 

Explore the 2022 essay contest topic, “Partnerships for Peace in a Multipolar Era,” download this year’s contest study guide , and learn more about the essay contest here. 

The R.A. Butler Prize for essays in Politics and International Studies is a competition that can be entered by students in Year 12 or the Lower 6th. Candidates are invited to submit an essay on a topic to be chosen from a list of general questions announced in March each year, and to be submitted in August.

The Prize is jointly organised by Trinity College Cambridge and Cambridge University’s Department of Politics and International Studies. The Prize was established in memory of the former Master of Trinity College, Lord Butler, who most famously served as Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer, and who was responsible for the introduction of free secondary education for all students in the UK.

The objectives of the R.A. Butler Prize are twofold. Firstly, it aims to encourage students with an interest in modern politics and world affairs to think about undertaking university studies in Politics, International Studies or a related discipline; it is not limited to those already studying these subjects or indeed other social sciences. Secondly, its intention is to recognise the achievements both of high-calibre students and of those who teach them.

The questions for the 2024 competition are available here .

Format:  Essays can be up to 3,000 words, including all footnotes and references but excluding the bibliography.  It’s worth considering the use of examples in your essays: the best essays often use a diverse selection of contemporary, historical or literary examples.  We encourage you to provide references to your sources of information, and to include a bibliography at the end of the essay.  Please include your name on the document and save the file as “Surname, First name”.

Eligibility:  The Prize is for students in Year 12 or Lower 6th at the time the questions are released in March.  Students based abroad are most welcome to participate. To be eligible, you must be in your penultimate year of school. That is, to be eligible for the 2024 competition, you should be expecting to receive your final school results in the year from September 2024 to August 2025. This condition is held to strictly and, to be fair to the participants, no exceptions are made.  Each entrant to the competition is allowed to submit only one essay.

Submissions:  Essays must be submitted by 12 noon (UK time) on Thursday 1 August 2024.  Please submit essays using the form below.

Prize:  The competition carries a First Prize of £600, to be split equally between the candidate and his or her school or college (the school or college’s portion of the prize to be issued in the form of book tokens), and a Second Prize of £400, which again is to be shared equally between the candidate and his or her school or college. Winners will be announced in September, and will be invited to visit the College to meet some of the teaching staff.

Contact:  Any queries from students who may be interested in submitting work for the prize, or their teachers, should be directed to Dr Glen Rangwala by email to:  [email protected] .

About your school

Past prize-winners.

1st Prize: John Paul Cheng (Winchester College, Winchester) 2nd Prize: Fela Callahan (Harris Westminster Sixth Form, London)

1st Prize: Eunju Seo (North London Collegiate School Jeju, Republic of Korea) 2nd Prize: Luke Grierson (High Storrs School, Sheffield)

1st Prize: Saumya Nair (Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Gloucestershire) 2nd Prize (joint): Liyana Eliza Glenn (Home-schooled, UK) 2nd Prize (joint):  Amr Hamid (St Paul’s School, London)

1st Prize: Lydia Allenby (Gosforth Academy, Newcastle upon Tyne) 2nd Prize: Louis Danker (City of London School, London)

1st Prize: Matthew Gursky (Hall Cross, Academy, Doncaster) 2nd Prize: Evie Morgan (Ipswich School, Ipswich)

1st Prize: Gergely Bérces (Milestone Institute, Budapest, Hungary) 2nd Prize (joint): Tatyana Goodwin (Varndean College, Brighton) 2nd Prize (joint): Eloise George (Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge)

1st Prize: Folu Ogunyeye (Aylesbury High School) 2nd Prize: Eve McMullen (Minster School, Southwell)

1st Prize: Silas Edwards (St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, Bristol) 2nd Prize: Eliza Harry (Greene’s Tutorial College, Oxford)

1st Prize: Stephen Horvath (Westminster School, London) 2nd Prize: Grace Elshafei (Sevenoaks School, Kent)

1st Prize: Oscar Alexander-Jones (St Paul’s School, London) 2nd Prize: Sam Maybee (King Edward VI Five Ways School, Birmingham)

1st Prize: Eleanor Shearer (Westminster School) 2nd Prize (joint): Stephanie Clarke (Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School) 2nd Prize (joint): Will Barnes (Manchester Grammar School)

1st Prize: Kiah Ashford-Stow (King Edward VI School, Southampton) 2nd Prize: Jamie Sproul (Stamford School)

1st Prize: Aman Rizvi (Winchester College) 2nd Prize: Frans Robyns (Kings College School, Wimbledon)

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The prize spotlights robust, insightful undergraduate writing about the ways policy can address contemporary world challenges. Read this year's winning essay.

Perry World House (PWH), the University of Pennsylvania’s hub for global policy research, is accepting submissions for the 2023 Undergraduate Essay Prize. This $1,000 prize recognizes outstanding student writing on how policy can be used to tackle global policy challenges.

We encourage students from all of Penn’s four undergraduate schools to apply. Students should submit original essays in response to the prompt provided below. The essay should not have been previously published or accepted for publication elsewhere.

2023 Undergraduate Essay Prize Winner

by Meheer Commuri

In his winning essay, Meheer Commuri discusses the shift in US foreign policy priorities from the Middle East to China. He explains consequences of this shift, and why the US should consider reengaging the Middle East. He argues that the region should remain a foreign policy priority for countries around the world for economic reasons, and to avoid giving China space to further engage with the region.

Meheer Commuri is a rising junior from New York studying International Relations in the School of Arts and Sciences. When not discussing foreign policy, he writes for  Punch Bowl , Penn’s satirical magazine. He is also a member of the Philomathean Society.


2022 Undergraduate Essay Prize Winners

by Julia Esposito

This essay looks at efforts to reduce global carbon emissions to mitigate climate change, which have proven relatively ineffective. Given that the impacts of climate change are already being felt, especially in developing countries, she suggests focusing on adaptive climate policies that can protect communities from severe weather events and rising sea levels.

Julia Esposito is a senior studying Physics and Astronomy with a Biological concentration. She is originally from Connecticut and currently works as a research assistant in a cosmology lab. She is the Word on the Street section editor for  34th Street Magazine , is a co-founder and board member for the Penn Astronomical Student Association, and is on the executive board for Penn's Social Deduction Club.

by Sachit Gali

This essay explores how to weaken China's control of the global supply of rare earth elements. These highly valuable elements are vital for manufacturing a range of products, from consumer goods to advanced military technologies, and there is an urgent need to diversify their production and improve global access.  Sachit Gali, a junior from Florida, studies Economics with a minor in Consumer Psychology. He is passionate about the intersection of economics with fields such as sustainable global development, international security studies, and human rights. Gali is the Business Manager of the Penn Masala a cappella group, a social impact consultant for 180 Degrees Consulting, and a research assistant for the Penn Development Research Initiative.

by Noah Sylvia

This essay looks at how militaries deploy asymmetric weaponry - weapons that are smaller than, but still effective against, adversaries' weaponry. It sets out how the Ukrainian army has made use of portable Javelin missiles to target Russian tanks, and why this could be relevant to future invasions of smaller states by larger neighbors. Noah Sylvia, a rising senior, studies International Relations and Russian and Eastern European Studies and is a Perry World House Student Fellow. He is interested in power dynamics in post-Soviet states and how violent non-state entities develop and operate over time. Noah researches Military Technology and Civilian Victimization, and is the head managing editor for the Sigma Iota Rho  Journal of International Relations.

2021 Undergraduate Essay Prize Winners

by Abby Baggini

This paper aims to make clear the discrepancy between the international internet law preferred and endorsed by authoritarian regimes and liberal democracies. Ultimately, this paper argues that fundamentally, authoritarian and democratic governments have distinct preferences for the content and design of emerging internet law, resulting in competing visions for an international cyber legal regime. 

by Chonnipha (Jing Jing) Piriyalertsak

China’s dam construction and hydropower activity in the Mekong River has exacerbated drought in downstream regions, threatening the livelihoods of 60 million people across five Southeast Asian countries. The conflict shows how Southeast Asian countries have been bound to China’s economic investments, resulting in greater leeway for China to develop the Mekong as it wishes— if the U.S. wishes to counteract Chinese influence, it must support its Southeast Asian allies in negotiating for more agency over water governance.

by Gabriella F. Rabito

30.4 million refugees and asylum-seekers, in compliance with international refugee law, are exercising their right to seek asylum in a country other than their country of origin. This paper investigates the treatment of refugees in detention centers in countries hosting the most refugees in their respective regions: Turkey (Middle East), Colombia (Latin America), Uganda (Africa), Germany (Europe), Bangladesh (Asia), and the United States (North America). Through this analysis, it is evident that many detention centers worldwide deprive refugees of liberty and safety.

by Emrys Stromberg

The Huichol are the oldest surviving culture in Mexico who continue to practice their traditions much as they have for centuries. Each year they conduct a pilgrimage of over 400km from their communities in the western sierras eastward to the semi-desertic high plateaus of the Sierra de Catorce which they call Wirikuta. This paper is about the current conflict between the Huichol and the Canadian mining company First Majestic Silver over the landscape of the Wirikuta/Catorce region.

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international relations essay competition 2021

Submitted by Livia Harriman on Fri, 08/10/2021 - 13:58

Nine participants in this year’s RA Butler prize for essays in Politics and International Relations – including the three winners and six of the candidates who received special commendations – attended a prize ceremony hosted at Trinity College Cambridge on 25th September 2021.

The six who attended in person were welcomed by dr glen rangwala, who teaches the politics of the middle east, and two of the prize winners from 2019 – evie morgan and matthew gursky, who are both now students at the university of cambridge., they were joined online by three participants, as well as by dr christopher brooke, who lectures in political theory..

international relations essay competition 2021

After a lunch for those who were able to attend in person, the nine competition participants joined in a discussion on the theme of how the pandemic is changing politics around the world today.

They each drew upon themes from their essays and their wider preparation.

Saumya Nair (Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Gloucestershire), who won the prize for the best essay and who wrote her essay on whether accountability could be preserved during times of crisis, argued that government transparency was a key issue during periods of crisis. Even if standard conditions of accountability cannot (and may even should not be) held to, issues of transparency had been brought to the fore during the pandemic, but that there was no guarantee that this would continue after the crisis is over. 

Anjali Raman-Middleton (Harris Westminster Sixth Form, London) focused on how extraordinary governmental powers often became normalised even after the period of exceptionality was over, but that this pandemic had shown that public confidence reduced over time, leading to greater questioning of government powers.

Purav Menon (Westminster School, London) drew attention to the role of the mass media in shaping public debate, on how the pandemic provides the opportunity for mass media to become more sensationalist. Noemi Elliott (Phillips Academy, Andover MA, United States) by contrast drew attention to how many populist movements had struggled to provide plausible accounts to most people of how public policy should respond to the pandemic, and lost trust as a result.

Scarlett Clarke (St Mark's Catholic School, London) reflected on the disproportionate socioeconomic effects of the pandemic on those who work in the service sector, who are more likely to be women and from ethnic minorities. Georgia Stewart (Cardinal Newman College, Preston) questioned whether the pandemic made us rethink notions of progress, and particularly on how it had foregrounded issues through social media that had previously been lower political priorities.

international relations essay competition 2021

The discussion turned from there to international repercussions. Liyana Eliza Glenn (home-schooled, UK), who was one of the joint second prize winners, focused on international leadership during periods of crisis – that is, on how shifts of power and legitimacy could occur during crisis, and that was noticeable in the pandemic, with the US being slow in adopting a significant international role especially in relation to the distribution of vaccines. This forces us to rethink what we mean when we discuss how ‘globalisation’ was to be understood in today’s world. Justin Chan (Harrow School, London) pointed to how the pandemic showed the limited agency of governments in addressing public health problems, but that the potential for international cooperation and innovation was still there – in particular, the renewed politicisation of many populations showed a high level of engagement with contemporary political issues.

Thanks very much to all those who participated in a thoroughly enjoyable and intellectually stimulating day. 

Find out more about the RA Butler prize here>>

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The Second OSCE-IFSH Essay Competition 2021: Conventional Arms Control and Confidence- and Security-Building Measures for Students and Young Professionals

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international relations essay competition 2021

Global Essay Competition

Compete in our Global Essay Competition and qualify for participation as a Leader of Tomorrow in the world’s premier opportunity for cross-generational debates: The St. Gallen Symposium.

Meet 300 of society’s brightest young minds. Present and debate your ideas with 600 senior leaders. Be inspired by some of the world’s most impressive speakers. Gain a unique and new perspective on this year’s topic. Become a member of a unique global community. Participate in the symposium with us. Win prize money of CHF 20,000 split amongst the three winners.

Topic Question

Striving for more or thriving with less – what pressing scarcity do you see, and how do you suggest to tackle it.

Scarcity generally refers to a situation where human needs exceed available resources . This year’s Global Essay Competition invites young leaders worldwide to focus on a specific contemporary or future challenge related to scarcity and propose an innovative way to address it.

Be creative in thinking about proposed solutions: do we need to strive for more and find ways to boost the availability of the resource in question? Or does it focus on ways to thrive with less and thus rethink our needs and demand?

Be free in choosing which scarce resource you focus on: examples include – but are NOT limited to – human labour, capital, natural resources, or intangibles like time, creativity, or care. Be bold and precise in describing a contemporary or future challenge of scarcity and the specific kind of resources you focus on, and offer a concrete and actionable idea of how we should confront it.

Registration window for the GEC for the 53rd St. Gallen Symposium is closed.

If problems occur during registration, please clear your cached images and files in your browsing history or consider using the browser Google Chrome. If you still cannot apply, use the following  link. For any unanswered questions please contact us via e-mail at  [email protected]


Qualify with an excellent essay.

We expect a professional, creative and thought-provoking essay. Be bold, unconventional, and distinctive on the competition question.

For your contribution to be valid, the following criteria must be met

Check your eligibility and prepare documents, to be eligible, you must fulfill all of the following criteria:.

  • Enrolled in a graduate or postgraduate programme (master level or higher) in any field of study at a regular university
  • Born in 1994 or later

Make sure you can provide the following documents:

  • Copy of passport or other identification (in English for non-Roman languages)
  • Confirmation of matriculation/enrolment from your university which proves your enrollment in a graduate/postgraduate level programme as of 1 February 2024 (download sample document  here )
  • Your contribution file with no indication of your name in the file name, the file metadata or the file itself

Meet us and ask your questions!

Meet our student representatives to learn how you can qualify for a participation in the 53 rd St. Gallen Symposium. We will have physical presentations at your university again as well as regular webinars to answer your questions!

Accompanying a Leader of Tomorrow

General questions, who can compete for a participation as a leader of tomorrow at the st. gallen symposium.

Students enrolled at a regular university, who are matriculated in a graduate or postgraduate programme.

What is the St. Gallen Global Essay Competition?

The St. Gallen Global Essay Competition is a global student essay competition, offering students who study at graduate or postgraduate level around the world the opportunity to apply for participation at the St. Gallen Symposium.

What is the Knowledge Pool?

The Knowledge Pool is a group of Leaders of Tomorrow with a strong affiliation to topics of relevance to the St. Gallen Symposium. They show outstanding track records in the particular fields they work or study. They are hand-selected by the International Students’ Committee. It is not possible to apply for membership in the Knowledge Pool.

How much does it cost to participate? 

The participation in the symposium is free for all Leaders of Tomorrow. Moreover, expenses for travel, board and lodging are covered by the ISC. However, we recommend bringing a small amount of pocket money for your convenience.

Essay Competition

Who is eligible for the 54 th  st. gallen symposium.

Students enrolled at a regular university, who are matriculated in a graduate or postgraduate programme as of 1 February 2025, from any field of study, born in 1995 or later.

What is a “regular university”?

In the context of the Global Essay Competition, a regular university is defined as an institution of higher education that also conducts research and offers at least one PhD programme. Exceptions are possible and are granted on a case-by-case basis.

Can Bachelor students participate?

Unfortunately, students on bachelor level do not fulfil the eligibility criteria and therefore cannot enter the competition. There is no other way to apply for participation and we, therefore, encourage all students to join the competition once they pursue with their studies at a graduate level. You may, however, be eligible if the level of study in your current year is equivalent to international graduate level which must be confirmed in writing by your university.

Can teams participate?

Only individual submissions are allowed as we can only grant participation to one contender per contribution.

How long should the contribution be? 

The maximum amount of words is 2,100 (excluding bibliography or graph descriptions and the like). There is no minimum word count. Please make sure to state the exact word count in your document. Also keep in mind that you must not state your name in the contribution.

Do I have to quote my sources?

All sources must be quoted and all essays are scanned for plagiarism. You must refer each source to the respective text passage. Please note that plagiarism is a serious offense and that we reserve the right to take further steps in case of deliberate fraud. Self-plagiarism will also result in disqualification, as the work has to be written exclusively for the Global Essay Competition of the St. Gallen Symposium.

Can I have a look at previous Winner Essays?

Yes, you can find winner essays as well as other publications from the Global Essay Competition here .

What file formats are accepted?

Please make sure to hand in your essay in either a doc, docx or pdf format. The document must allow to copy the text easily (no document protections).

What documents do I need to submit?

In addition to your contribution, make sure to upload

  • a copy of your passport (or any other official government ID but no driver’s license) to verify your age
  • a confirmation of matriculation from your university confirming your graduate or postgraduate student status as of February 2023
  • a short abstract (200–300 words) which can be entered in the registration form directly

in the applicable field of the registration form.

What happens after I submitted my application?

The ISC will verify your eligibility and check all submitted documents for completeness and readability. Due to the large amount of essays we receive, our response may take some time, so thank you for your patience. If the jury selects your essay in the top 100 , you qualify as a Leader of Tomorrow for an expenses-paid participation in the 52 nd St. Gallen Symposium (4-5 May 2023). The results will be announced via e-mail by mid-March 2023. The jury selects the three awardees based on the quality of the idea on paper. The award is endowed with a total prize money of CHF 20,000. In addition, there will be a chance for the very best competitors (including the awardees) to present their ideas on the big stage at the symposium. For this, the students will be asked to pitch their idea on video beforehand.

Who’s in the jury?

The Award Jury consists of leading executives, journalists and professors from all around the world. The Academic Jury is composed of young top academics from the University of St. Gallen and the ETH Zurich.

When will the results be announced?

The jury’s decision will be announced by mid-March at the latest.


How do the travel arrangements work.

The organizing committee will get in touch with you prior to the symposium to discuss your itinerary and to book your travel.

Can the organising committee help me get a visa?

All Leaders of Tomorrow are self-responsible to get a visa. However, we will inform the applicable Swiss embassy about the invitation and will provide you with the necessary documents. Should a problem arise anyway, we are happy to help. Expenses for visa application are borne by the Leaders of Tomorrow themselves.

Where am I accommodated during the symposium?

All Leaders of Tomorrow are accommodated at private student flats across the city. Please give us an early notice should you have any special requirements (e.g. female flatmates only).

What transport is provided?

We book flights or train tickets and provide shuttle service from and to the airport. Furthermore, all Leaders of Tomorrow receive a free ticket for the public transport in St. Gallen during the week of the symposium.

How much money do I need? 

We recommend bringing some pocket money (CHF 100–200) for your convenience. Please note that depending on your time of arrival and departure, some meals might not be covered.

Can disabled people participate as well? 

Yes, of course. Most of the symposium sites are wheelchair-accessible and we are more than happy to help where we can. Although our ability to provide personal assistance is very limited, we do our best to provide the necessary services.

Is there any touristic programme and do I have time for sightseeing?

During the symposium there will be no time for sightseeing. However, we may offer selected touristic programmes a day before or after the symposium. These days can, of course, also be used for individual sightseeing. Nearby sites include the old town of St. Gallen, the lake Constance and the mountain Säntis.

Can I extend my stay in Switzerland?

Yes, upon request we can move your return flight to a date of your choice. If the new flight is more expensive, we may ask you to cover the price difference. Please note that we are unable to provide any services such as accommodation or transportation after the end of the symposium week.

Can I bring a spouse?

Unfortunately, we cannot provide any services such as travel, room, board or symposium access to any additional person.

Past Winners & Essay Reviews

Out of approx. 1,000 annual contributions submitted by graduate and post-graduate students from all around the globe, the jury selects three winner essays every year. Meet our competition’s past winners and read their contributions.

2023 – A New Generational Contract

Elliot gunn, gaurav kamath, megan murphy, essay question:.

The best or worst legacy from previous generations: How to preserve or replace it?

A great deal of our lives is influenced by when we were born. As those currently alive, we have inherited the world which previous and older generations have built. We owe a great deal to the efforts of our forebears, but we also inherit problematic legacies.

2022 – Collaborative Advantage

Sophie lara neuber, anton meier, bryan kwang shing tan.

Collaborative Advantage: what should be written into a new intergenerational contract?

 The idea of a “generational contract” embodies the principles that younger and older generations rely on each other to provide mutual support across different stages of their lives. Inclusive education systems, sustainable welfare states and meaningful environmental action are some of many challenges requiring a cross-generational collaborative effort. Yet, with the climate crisis, rapid technological change and societal aging in many countries, the generational contract and notions of intergenerational fairness have been challenged. Members of the younger generation are raising their voices as they reflect on how their futures are being compromised by current decision-makers.

 What’s your specific and actionable idea that should be written into a new generational contract? Choose an area where you see evidence that intergenerational fairness is – or, going forward, will be – challenged and where the generational contract needs to be rewritten. Potential areas include, but are not limited to, business strategy and the economy, inclusive governance and education, the welfare state and health care, environmental sustainability, or the world of work. Describe your problem and offer concrete and practical proposals how inter-generational fairness can be restored or reinvented. Explain your idea’s impact for the future.

2021 – Trust Matters

Janz irvin chiang.

1st place – Peking University

Joan  Nyangena

2nd place – York University

Karl Michael Braun

3rd place – Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg

A Matter of Trust: How Can Trust be Repaired When It’s Lost?

In recent years, we have seen many reports about “trust crises” in the realms of politics, health, business, technology, science, and media. Political and corporate scandals, mass protests, and deteriorating trust indicators in global perception surveys support this diagnosis. As a result, senior leaders in many of these sectors publicly aspire to “rebuild trust” in their decisions, products, or institutions. What would be your advice to them?

Choose an area in one of the above-mentioned sectors where you see evidence that citizens’, consumers’, regulators’, employees’ or other stakeholders’ trust has been lost. Describe your example of an apparent loss of trust; offer concrete and practical proposals on repairing damaged trust. Describe your idea’s impact for the future.

2020 – Freedom Revisited

Symposium  postponed.

As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the final review and communication of the results of the contributions to the Global Essay Competition was stopped prematurely.

Freedom Revisited: Which aspects of freedom need to be defended, or recalibrated, to meet the challenges of our time?

Domestically and on the international stage, values of individual, economic, and political freedom are subject to critical inquiry or outright attack. Diverse phenomena such as populism, global power shifts, climate change, the digital revolution, and global migration call for a reflection on the value of freedom for the way we live, do business, and organize politically in the years ahead. While some call for a defence of established freedoms, others call for recalibration of our concept of freedom, or the balance we strike between freedom and other values, such as equality, sustainability, and security. Where do you stand in this debate? Choose one of the following positions as you develop your essay:

In defence of freedom: Choose an area in the realm of business, economics, politics, or civil society where current concepts of freedom are under pressure and where they need to be defended. Describe the problem and offer a concrete and practical proposition of how established concepts of freedom should – and can be – defended. Describe its impact for the future.

In defence of recalibrating freedom: Choose an area in the realms of business, economics, politics or civil society where current concepts of freedom are unsuitable for the challenges we face and where they need to be recalibrated. Describe the problem and offer a concrete and practical proposition of how established concepts of freedom should and can be recalibrated. Describe its impact for the future.

2019 – Capital for Purpose

Reuben muhindi wambui (ke).

1st place – The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

Natalie Hei Tung Lau (HK)

2nd place – University of Pennsylvania

Toan Do (VN)

3rd place – Yale University

Is it as good as it gets? – What approach would you suggest to change the current purpose of capital?

Political volatility, environmental issues, precarious labour markets, technological monopolies, managerial and investment short-termism are only a few challenges we face. The time has come to counter excessive short-termism and start doing business as unusual. Think about the status quo and its implications. What would be an idea to change it? Develop projects or actions you would trust in to bring new and expanded purposes to capital and aim for a long-term positive impact. In your essay you should consider how the use of capital (financial, human, social,…) can solve complex challenges and address substantial changes, be it by individuals, civil society, businesses or governments. Your idea must inspire leaders worldwide to take on responsibility and put it into practice. Be bold and develop a truly impactful concept to win our prestigious award.

2009 – 2018

2018  – beyond the end of work, nat ware (au).

1st place – University of Oxford

Janis Goldschmidt (DE)

João abreu (br).

3rd place – Harvard University

Robots are coming for your job. How do you augment yourself to stay economically relevant?

Author Yuval Noah Harari claims that the rapid progress of artificial intelligence technology will render the human species economically useless within decades. Imagine a world in which humans fight back, harnessing AI and other technologies to stay economically indispensable – and, ultimately, competitive against the computers. Describe the job you aspire to in the future, how it will potentially be influenced by AI, and how you would augment yourself technologically if necessary to prevail in your chosen career.

2017  – The dilemma of disruption

1st Place – University of Oxford

Benjamin Hofmann (DE)

2nd Place – University of St. Gallen

Sigin Ojulu (SS)

3rd Place – University of Southern California

Breaking the status quo – What’s YOUR disruptive idea?

The notion of disruption captures today’s innovation zeitgeist. Nowadays, it seems everyone claims to be a disruptor – particularly young people with an entrepreneurial mindset. Let’s think beyond disruptive innovation in management and look at disruption more generally as something that breaks the status quo – be it in business, politics, science, or society. Pick the one of these four fields you are most passionate about, identify a problem of greater magnitude and come up with a disruptive idea to solve it. Your idea must aspire to inspire top-notch leaders worldwide. Do not free ride on the buzzword “disruption” but rather be bold and develop a truly novel and radical concept to win our prestigious award.

2016  – Growth – the good, the bad, and the ugly

Schima labitsch (at).

1st place – Fordham University

Alexandra Ettlin (CH)

2nd place – University of St.Gallen

Colin Miller (US)

3rd place – New York University

What are alternatives to economic growth?

2015  – Proudly Small

Laya maheshwari (in).

1st place – London School of Economic

Leon Schreiber (ZA)

2nd place – Freie Universität Berlin

Katharina Schramm (DE)

3rd place – University of St.Gallen

Essay Questions:

  • What is the next small BIG thing?

Think about unconventional ideas, undiscovered trends or peripheral signals that may turn into ground-breaking changes for societies. Present one idea which is not on the radar of current leaders yet but will change the game in business, politics or civil society – the best ones will be put to the test by the global audience of the St. Gallen Symposium.

  • Collaborative Small State Initiative

Although small states lead the global rankings in international benchmark studies on competitiveness, innovation and wealth, they are often politically marginalised. Explore a common agenda for small and prosperous countries and identify one joint project that would increase the relevance of small states on the global stage. Go beyond politics and diplomacy by also including economic and civil players.

  • Elites: small but superior groups rule the world – at what price?

Human history shows that the world has been ruled by tiny but superior groups of people. It is the elites who have been controlling societies and the allocation of resources. Given the rise of inequality, a devastating level of famine that still exists, ubiquitous corrupt systems of government, limited access to education for the underprivileged, to name just a few of the world’s greatest problems, elites are challenged to redefine their roles and agenda settings. Share your thoughts on how elites are supposed to emerge and transform in the 21st century.

2014  – The Clash of Generations

Ashwinikumar singh (in).

1st place – University of Mumbai

Martin Seneviratne (AU)

2nd place – University of Sydney

Set Ying Ting (MY)

3rd place – National University of Singapore

  • Balancing Generational Claims

The presumption of an altruistic relation between generations and its positive effect on the economic well-being of societies is illusionary. Welfare states have widened fiscal gaps to an irreparable extent for the next generations. When aspiring to a sustainable welfare system, how should intergenerational claims balance without having to rely on selflessness?

  • A Double-Edged Legacy

Let’s be frank: The generational contract has failed everywhere – but for different reasons. Exuberant public debts, zooming healthcare costs, unequal distribution of wealth, loss of ethical and moral anchors, loss of trust in existing institutions: each state is facing a unique set of problems. Briefly describe the situation in your country and propose a generational contract defining mutual responsibilities on an economic and social level.

  • A Prospect for the Young

Highly educated and ambitious, yet unemployed. A whole generation of young is entering the labour market with little prospect of success. The implications go way beyond individual tragedies as economies with lasting high levels of youth unemployment risk social instability. Present new solutions on how we can overcome this crisis.

  • Business between Generations

Slogans like “rent is the new own” or Botsmann and Rogers’s “what’s mine is yours” (HarperBusiness, 2010) mark the trend of shared economy. Although not a new economic phenomenon per se, particularly the Millennials are embracing this attitude towards doing business where they value access over ownership. The trend is gaining global mainstream acceptance which is resulting in a lasting impact on economic performance. Discuss the future of shared economy, its overall implications and the dynamics between supply and demand.

2013 – Rewarding Courage

Kilian semmelmann (de).

1st place – Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Dragov Radoslav (BG)

2nd place – Rotterdam School of Management

Bree Romuld (AU)

3rd place – University of St.Gallen (HSG)

The competitors must choose from one of four competition questions, which refer to the four topic clusters “Putting incentives right”, “Coping with institutions”, “Against the current – courageous people” and “Management of excellence”

  • Putting incentives right

How come that both in the corporate world and in politics, responsible courage (e.g. whistleblowing, courage to disagree with current paradigms, etc.) is hardly ever rewarded? Where the big decisions for the future are taken, anxiety, conformity and despondence prevail. How can this be changed?

  • Coping with institutions

Institutions of all kinds shape our behaviour – be it economic, political or social behaviour. How should institutions be designed in order to foster a sustainable economic and social development?

  • Against the current – courageous people

Observers lament that younger generations, as individualistic as they are, tend to settle for a highly streamlined social and economic world that does not ask for big decisions or unconventional thinking. Please share your opinion on this observation and explain why you agree or disagree. Please use examples that support your arguments.

  • Management of excellence

New insights can only flourish within a culture of dialogue in different opinions. No assumptions should be taken for granted nor should there be any unquestioned truth. However, most people (decision makers, managers, students, etc.) often fail to deal constructively with conflicting opinions. How can companies encourage their employees to build a healthy attitude towards unconventional thinking and acting?

2012 – Facing Risk

Rodrigues caren (in).

1st place – St. Joseph’s Institute of Management

Jennifer Miksch (DE)

2nd place – Geneva Graduate Institute

Jelena Petrovic (SR)

3rd place – King’s College London

Detecting Risks

  • The methodological tools that allow early detection of what will shape future trends are pivotal. While risks are emerging faster, these tools still need fostered advancement. What is the role of scenario planning and forecasting methods and who is or should be responsible for these aspects in the organisation? How should the detection of risks be addressed in an increasingly complex and interconnected global landscape?

Risk Aversion

  • In wealthy societies, most people tend to suppress risk taking. Given this increasing trend of risk aversion in saturated societies, what are the long term consequences for economy and society? What are the long term consequences of a high level of risk aversion?

Emerging Risks

  • There are tremendous risks facing the global community and many people have not yet become aware of their potential consequences (e.g. public debt burden). What are the societal, economic and/or political risks your generation of decision makers will be facing in the future? How could you convert these risks into opportunities?

Managing Risk

  • There is often a disconnect between taking risks and bearing the burden of the consequences of doing so (e.g. risk taking in investment banking). Who should bear the consequences of negligent risk taking and why? How can healthy risk taking be fostered in wealthy societies?

2011 – Just Power

Marcelo ber (ar).

1st place – New York University

Dhru Kanan Amal (IN)

2nd place – London School of Economics

Maria de los Angeles Lasa (AR)

3rd place – Università di Camerino

  • Justice and Power
  • Rethinking Leadership
  • Public Goods and Values

We asked you to contribute visions and ideas to the theme “Just Power” – Power in the sense of its use in various areas of politics and economics. We expected a professional work which could be an essay, a scenario, a project report or proposal, a multi- media presentation or an entrepreneurial concept. It should be constructive, provocative or instructive, inspiring thoughts and actions as well as introucing new approaches and unconventional ideas. Within the framework of the theme you may choose between three subtopics for your contribution.

2010 – Entrepreneurs – Agents of Change

Ainur begim (kz).

1st place – University of Oslo

James Clear (USA)

Christoph birkholz (de).

  • What makes an entrepreneur an “agent of change”?
  • Changing of the guard: Who are the new entrepreneurs?
  • Corporate entrepreneurship within large companies: a concept for the future or a mere pie in the sky?
  • Entrepreneurship between environmental risks and opportunities: What does it take to succeed?

2009 – Revival of Political and Economic Boundaries

Shofwan al-banna choiruzzad (id), jason george (us), aris trantidis (gr), 1999 – 2008, 2008  – global capitalism – local values, guillaume darier (ch), jacobus cilliers (za), feerasta aniqa (nz), christoph matthias paret (de), 2007  – the power of natural resources, benjamin block (us), gustav borgefalk (se), kevin chua (ph), 2006  – inspiring europe, maximilian freier (de), chen yesh (sg), elidor mëhilli (al), william english (us), 2005  – liberty, trust and responsibility, christian h. harding (de), luana badiu (ro), norbert jungmichel (de), fabien curto millet (es /fr), 2004  – the challenges to growth and prosperity, ravi rauniyar (np), peter g. kirchschläger (at / ch), xin dong (cn), 2003 – seeking responses in times of uncertainty, stefanie klein (de), rosita shivacheva (bg), 2002 – pushing limits – questioning goals, constantine (dino) asproloupos (ca / gr), manita jitngarmkusol (th), 2001 – new balance of power, marion mühlberger (at), uwe seibel (de), moses ekra (ci / ca), gerald tan (my), 2000 – time, martin von brocke (de), pei-fu hsieh (tw), tzvetelina tzvetkova (bg), 1999 – new markets, new technologies, new skills, peter doralt (fr), valérie feldmann (de), rajen makhijani (in).

“Partaking in the competition was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only was I able to come to St. Gallen and meet incredible young entrepreneurs and leaders who I’m still in contact with, but it provided me the opportunity to develop and share ideas with key decision-makers. The main idea I submitted was for a new way to finance retraining and healthcare at no cost to individuals or governments. Given the COVID- 19 pandemic, this idea is needed now more than ever, so I’m currently implementing the idea through a new organization I’ve established called FORTE ( Financing Of Return To Employment ).” NAT WARE , Founder & CEO of FORTE, Leader of Tomorrow at the 47th and 48th St. Gallen Symposium

international relations essay competition 2021

This annual essay contest is organized in an effort to harness the energy, creativity and initiative of the world's youth in promoting a culture of peace and sustainable development. It also aims to inspire society to learn from the young minds and to think about how each of us can make a difference in the world.

* This program is an activity within the framework of UNESCO’s Education for Sustainable Development: Towards achieving the SDGs ( ESD for 2030 ).

Click here to send your essay online

Organized by

Under the auspices of.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan Japanese National Commission for UNESCO, Japan Private High School Federation Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education, Japan Broadcasting Corporation, Nikkei Inc

Supported by


For further inquiries concerning the International Essay Contest for Young People, please contact [email protected]

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Click here to start your application. Apply now

2021 Northeastern University London Essay Competition Awards

Congratulations to all of our essay winners!

This year we had over 6000 entries with many outstanding and thought-provoking pieces. Well done to everyone to entered, it was a tough decision. The winners should be proud of themselves for producing such exemplary work.

You can find this year’s questions and a list of all the winners with their essays attached here:

Essay Questions

Art History:  Should the West return cultural artefacts to their former colonial territories?

Creative Writing:  It is 2120. There is no longer any such thing as poetry, or poets. What happened?

Data Science:  What is the importance of ethics in data science?

Economics:  How relevant is economics during a pandemic and in what way might economists make things better?

English:  Is literature always a force for good?

History:  Will the Covid-19 pandemic change human history?

Law:  When, if ever, should one be criminally liable for infecting another person with a disease?

Philosophy:  Should robots have rights? Why or why not?

Politics and International Relations:  Is democracy experiencing a setback worldwide?

Psychology:  Discuss the sources of mental health issues in the modern world

Art History

First place: John Chang Read John’s essay

Second place: Mia Mack Read Mia’s essay

Third place: Hanna Johal Read Hanna’s essay

Creative Writing

First place: Alexander Archer Read Alexander’s essay

Second place: Nancy Connor Read Nancy’s essay

Third place: Adriana Garcia Alumbreros Read Adriana’s essay

Data Science

First place: Shaun Pexton Read Shaun’s essay

Second place: Emma Chandler Read Emma’s essay

Third place: Rabiah Ahmad Read Rabiah’s essay

First place: Kangzi Chan Read Kangzi’s essay

Second place: Scarlett Westbrook Read Scarlett’s essay

Third place: Aman Sultan Read Aman’s essay

First place: Maya Panasar Read Maya’s essay

Second place: George Oates Read George’s essay

Third place: Grace Middlemas, Layal Muhtadi Read Grace’s essay Read Layal’s essay

First place: Juliet Donajgrodzki Read Juliet’s essay

Second place: Joseph Andrews Read Joseph’s essay

Third place: Libby Stone Read Libby’s essay

First place: Kate Taylor Smith Read Kate’s essay

Second place: Gabriella Deegan, Kashvi Grover Read Gabriella’s essay Read Kashvi’s essay

Third place: Scott Lee Read Scott’s essay

First place: Jodie Strutt Read Jodie’s essay

Second place: Amy Young Read Amy’s essay

Third place: Oscar Burstal Read Oscar’s essay

Politics and IR

First place: Frances Rigby Read Frances’ essay

Second place: Alma Talbot Read Alma’s essay

Third place: Daniel Hidalgo-Anguera Read Daniel’s essay

First place: Fynn Hoffman Read Fynn’s essay

Second place: Mercy Otasowie Read Mercy’s essay

Third place: Grace Forward Read Grace’s essay

Summer 2024 Admissions Open Now. Sign up for upcoming live information sessions here (featuring former and current Admission Officers at Havard and UPenn).

Discourse, debate, and analysis

Cambridge re:think essay competition 2024.

Competition Opens: 15th January, 2024

Essay Submission Deadline: 10th May, 2024 Result Announcement: 20th June, 2024 Award Ceremony and Dinner at the University of Cambridge: 30th July, 2024

We welcome talented high school students from diverse educational settings worldwide to contribute their unique perspectives to the competition.

Entry to the competition is free.

About the Competition

The spirit of the Re:think essay competition is to encourage critical thinking and exploration of a wide range of thought-provoking and often controversial topics. The competition covers a diverse array of subjects, from historical and present issues to speculative future scenarios. Participants are invited to engage deeply with these topics, critically analysing their various facets and implications. It promotes intellectual exploration and encourages participants to challenge established norms and beliefs, presenting opportunities to envision alternative futures, consider the consequences of new technologies, and reevaluate longstanding traditions. 

Ultimately, our aim is to create a platform for students and scholars to share their perspectives on pressing issues of the past and future, with the hope of broadening our collective understanding and generating innovative solutions to contemporary challenges. This year’s competition aims to underscore the importance of discourse, debate, and critical analysis in addressing complex societal issues in nine areas, including:

Religion and Politics

Political science and law, linguistics, environment, sociology and philosophy, business and investment, public health and sustainability, biotechonology.

Artificial Intelligence 


2024 essay prompts.

This year, the essay prompts are contributed by distinguished professors from Harvard, Brown, UC Berkeley, Cambridge, Oxford, and MIT.

Essay Guidelines and Judging Criteria

Review general guidelines, format guidelines, eligibility, judging criteria.

Awards and Award Ceremony

Award winners will be invited to attend the Award Ceremony and Dinner hosted at the King’s College, University of Cambridge. The Dinner is free of charge for select award recipients.

Registration and Submission

Register a participant account today and submit your essay before the deadline.

Advisory Committee and Judging Panel

The Cambridge Re:think Essay Competition is guided by an esteemed Advisory Committee comprising distinguished academics and experts from elite universities worldwide. These committee members, drawn from prestigious institutions, such as Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, and MIT, bring diverse expertise in various disciplines.

They play a pivotal role in shaping the competition, contributing their insights to curate the themes and framework. Their collective knowledge and scholarly guidance ensure the competition’s relevance, academic rigour, and intellectual depth, setting the stage for aspiring minds to engage with thought-provoking topics and ideas.

We are honoured to invite the following distinguished professors to contribute to this year’s competition.

The judging panel of the competition comprises leading researchers and professors from Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Cambridge, and Oxford, engaging in a strictly double blind review process.

Essay Competition Professors

Keynote Speeches by 10 Nobel Laureates

We are beyond excited to announce that multiple Nobel laureates have confirmed to attend and speak at this year’s ceremony on 30th July, 2024 .

They will each be delivering a keynote speech to the attendees. Some of them distinguished speakers will speak virtually, while others will attend and present in person and attend the Reception at Cambridge.

Essay Competition Professors (4)

Why has religion remained a force in a secular world? 

Professor Commentary:

Arguably, the developed world has become more secular in the last century or so. The influence of Christianity, e.g. has diminished and people’s life worlds are less shaped by faith and allegiance to Churches. Conversely, arguments have persisted that hold that we live in a post-secular world. After all, religion – be it in terms of faith, transcendence, or meaning – may be seen as an alternative to a disenchanted world ruled by entirely profane criteria such as economic rationality, progressivism, or science. Is the revival of religion a pale reminder of a by-gone past or does it provide sources of hope for the future?

‘Religion in the Public Sphere’ by Jürgen Habermas (European Journal of Philosophy, 2006)

In this paper, philosopher Jürgen Habermas discusses the limits of church-state separation, emphasizing the significant contribution of religion to public discourse when translated into publicly accessible reasons.

‘Public Religions in the Modern World’ by José Casanova (University Of Chicago Press, 1994)

Sociologist José Casanova explores the global emergence of public religion, analyzing case studies from Catholicism and Protestantism in Spain, Poland, Brazil, and the USA, challenging traditional theories of secularization.

‘The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere’ by Judith Butler, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, and Cornel West (Edited by Eduardo Mendieta and Jonathan VanAntwerpen, Columbia University Press, 2011)

This collection features dialogues by prominent intellectuals on the role of religion in the public sphere, examining various approaches and their impacts on cultural, social, and political debates.

‘Rethinking Secularism’ by Craig Calhoun, Mark Juergensmeyer, and Jonathan VanAntwerpen (Oxford University Press, 2011)

An interdisciplinary examination of secularism, this book challenges traditional views, highlighting the complex relationship between religion and secularism in contemporary global politics.

‘God is Back: How the Global Rise of Faith is Changing the World’ by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge (Penguin, 2010)

Micklethwait and Wooldridge argue for the coexistence of religion and modernity, suggesting that religious beliefs can contribute to a more open, tolerant, and peaceful modern world.

‘Multiculturalism’ by Tariq Modood (Polity Press, 2013)

Sociologist Tariq Modood emphasizes the importance of multiculturalism in integrating diverse identities, particularly in post-immigration contexts, and its role in shaping democratic citizenship.

‘God’s Agents: Biblical Publicity in Contemporary England’ by Matthew Engelke (University of California Press, 2013)

In this ethnographic study, Matthew Engelke explores how a group in England seeks to expand the role of religion in the public sphere, challenging perceptions of religion in post-secular England.

Ccir Essay Competition Prompt Contributed By Dr Mashail Malik

Gene therapy is a medical approach that treats or prevents disease by correcting the underlying genetic problem. Is gene therapy better than traditional medicines? What are the pros and cons of using gene therapy as a medicine? Is gene therapy justifiable?

Especially after Covid-19 mRNA vaccines, gene therapy is getting more and more interesting approach to cure. That’s why that could be interesting to think about. I believe that students will enjoy and learn a lot while they are investigating this topic.

Ccir Essay Competition Prompt Contributed By Dr Mamiko Yajima

The Hall at King’s College, Cambridge

The Hall was designed by William Wilkins in the 1820s and is considered one of the most magnificent halls of its era. The first High Table dinner in the Hall was held in February 1828, and ever since then, the splendid Hall has been where members of the college eat and where formal dinners have been held for centuries.

The Award Ceremony and Dinner will be held in the Hall in the evening of  30th July, 2024.


Stretching out down to the River Cam, the Back Lawn has one of the most iconic backdrop of King’s College Chapel. 

The early evening reception will be hosted on the Back Lawn with the iconic Chapel in the background (weather permitting). 


King’s College Chapel

With construction started in 1446 by Henry VI and took over a century to build, King’s College Chapel is one of the most iconic buildings in the world, and is a splendid example of late Gothic architecture. 

Attendees are also granted complimentary access to the King’s College Chapel before and during the event. 

Confirmed Nobel Laureates

Dr David Baltimore - CCIR

Dr Thomas R. Cech

The nobel prize in chemistry 1989 , for the discovery of catalytic properties of rna.

Thomas Robert Cech is an American chemist who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Sidney Altman, for their discovery of the catalytic properties of RNA. Cech discovered that RNA could itself cut strands of RNA, suggesting that life might have started as RNA. He found that RNA can not only transmit instructions, but also that it can speed up the necessary reactions.

He also studied telomeres, and his lab discovered an enzyme, TERT (telomerase reverse transcriptase), which is part of the process of restoring telomeres after they are shortened during cell division.

As president of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, he promoted science education, and he teaches an undergraduate chemistry course at the University of Colorado


Sir Richard J. Roberts

The nobel prize in medicine 1993 .

F or the discovery of split genes

During 1969–1972, Sir Richard J. Roberts did postdoctoral research at Harvard University before moving to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where he was hired by James Dewey Watson, a co-discoverer of the structure of DNA and a fellow Nobel laureate. In this period he also visited the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology for the first time, working alongside Fred Sanger. In 1977, he published his discovery of RNA splicing. In 1992, he moved to New England Biolabs. The following year, he shared a Nobel Prize with his former colleague at Cold Spring Harbor Phillip Allen Sharp.

His discovery of the alternative splicing of genes, in particular, has had a profound impact on the study and applications of molecular biology. The realisation that individual genes could exist as separate, disconnected segments within longer strands of DNA first arose in his 1977 study of adenovirus, one of the viruses responsible for causing the common cold. Robert’s research in this field resulted in a fundamental shift in our understanding of genetics, and has led to the discovery of split genes in higher organisms, including human beings.

Dr William Daniel Phillips - CCIR

Dr Aaron Ciechanover

The nobel prize in chemistry 2004 .

F or the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation

Aaron Ciechanover is one of Israel’s first Nobel Laureates in science, earning his Nobel Prize in 2004 for his work in ubiquitination. He is honored for playing a central role in the history of Israel and in the history of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

Dr Ciechanover is currently a Technion Distinguished Research Professor in the Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and Research Institute at the Technion. He is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, the Russian Academy of Sciences and is a foreign associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences. In 2008, he was a visiting Distinguished Chair Professor at NCKU, Taiwan. As part of Shenzhen’s 13th Five-Year Plan funding research in emerging technologies and opening “Nobel laureate research labs”, in 2018 he opened the Ciechanover Institute of Precision and Regenerative Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen campus.


Dr Robert Lefkowitz

The nobel prize in chemistry 2012 .

F or the discovery of G protein-coupled receptors

Robert Joseph Lefkowitz is an American physician (internist and cardiologist) and biochemist. He is best known for his discoveries that reveal the inner workings of an important family G protein-coupled receptors, for which he was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Brian Kobilka. He is currently an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as well as a James B. Duke Professor of Medicine and Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry at Duke University.

Dr Lefkowitz made a remarkable contribution in the mid-1980s when he and his colleagues cloned the gene first for the β-adrenergic receptor, and then rapidly thereafter, for a total of 8 adrenergic receptors (receptors for adrenaline and noradrenaline). This led to the seminal discovery that all GPCRs (which include the β-adrenergic receptor) have a very similar molecular structure. The structure is defined by an amino acid sequence which weaves its way back and forth across the plasma membrane seven times. Today we know that about 1,000 receptors in the human body belong to this same family. The importance of this is that all of these receptors use the same basic mechanisms so that pharmaceutical researchers now understand how to effectively target the largest receptor family in the human body. Today, as many as 30 to 50 percent of all prescription drugs are designed to “fit” like keys into the similarly structured locks of Dr Lefkowitz’ receptors—everything from anti-histamines to ulcer drugs to beta blockers that help relieve hypertension, angina and coronary disease.

Dr Lefkowitz is among the most highly cited researchers in the fields of biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, toxicology, and clinical medicine according to Thomson-ISI.


Dr Joachim Frank

The nobel prize in chemistry 2017 .

F or developing cryo-electron microscopy

Joachim Frank is a German-American biophysicist at Columbia University and a Nobel laureate. He is regarded as the founder of single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2017 with Jacques Dubochet and Richard Henderson. He also made significant contributions to structure and function of the ribosome from bacteria and eukaryotes.

In 1975, Dr Frank was offered a position of senior research scientist in the Division of Laboratories and Research (now Wadsworth Center), New York State Department of Health,where he started working on single-particle approaches in electron microscopy. In 1985 he was appointed associate and then (1986) full professor at the newly formed Department of Biomedical Sciences of the University at Albany, State University of New York. In 1987 and 1994, he went on sabbaticals in Europe, one to work with Richard Henderson, Laboratory of Molecular Biology Medical Research Council in Cambridge and the other as a Humboldt Research Award winner with Kenneth C. Holmes, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg. In 1998, Dr Frank was appointed investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Since 2003 he was also lecturer at Columbia University, and he joined Columbia University in 2008 as professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and of biological sciences.


Dr Barry C. Barish

The nobel prize in physics 2017 .

For the decisive contributions to the detection of gravitational waves

Dr Barry Clark Barish is an American experimental physicist and Nobel Laureate. He is a Linde Professor of Physics, emeritus at California Institute of Technology and a leading expert on gravitational waves.

In 2017, Barish was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics along with Rainer Weiss and Kip Thorne “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”. He said, “I didn’t know if I would succeed. I was afraid I would fail, but because I tried, I had a breakthrough.”

In 2018, he joined the faculty at University of California, Riverside, becoming the university’s second Nobel Prize winner on the faculty.

In the fall of 2023, he joined Stony Brook University as the inaugural President’s Distinguished Endowed Chair in Physics.

In 2023, Dr Barish was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Biden in a White House ceremony.


Dr Harvey J. Alter

The nobel prize in medicine 2020 .

For the discovery of Hepatitis C virus

Dr Harvey J. Alter is an American medical researcher, virologist, physician and Nobel Prize laureate, who is best known for his work that led to the discovery of the hepatitis C virus. Alter is the former chief of the infectious disease section and the associate director for research of the Department of Transfusion Medicine at the Warren Grant Magnuson Clinical Center in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. In the mid-1970s, Alter and his research team demonstrated that most post-transfusion hepatitis cases were not due to hepatitis A or hepatitis B viruses. Working independently, Alter and Edward Tabor, a scientist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, proved through transmission studies in chimpanzees that a new form of hepatitis, initially called “non-A, non-B hepatitis” caused the infections, and that the causative agent was probably a virus. This work eventually led to the discovery of the hepatitis C virus in 1988, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2020 along with Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice.

Dr Alter has received recognition for the research leading to the discovery of the virus that causes hepatitis C. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award conferred to civilians in United States government public health service, and the 2000 Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research.


Dr Ardem Patapoutian

The nobel prize in medicine 2021 .

For discovering how pressure is translated into nerve impulses

Dr Ardem Patapoutian is an Lebanese-American molecular biologist, neuroscientist, and Nobel Prize laureate of Armenian descent. He is known for his work in characterising the PIEZO1, PIEZO2, and TRPM8 receptors that detect pressure, menthol, and temperature. Dr Patapoutian is a neuroscience professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California. In 2021, he won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with David Julius.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I participate in the Re:think essay competition? 

The Re:think Essay competition is meant to serve as fertile ground for honing writing skills, fostering critical thinking, and refining communication abilities. Winning or participating in reputable contests can lead to recognition, awards, scholarships, or even publication opportunities, elevating your academic profile for college applications and future endeavours. Moreover, these competitions facilitate intellectual growth by encouraging exploration of diverse topics, while also providing networking opportunities and exposure to peers, educators, and professionals. Beyond accolades, they instil confidence, prepare for higher education demands, and often allow you to contribute meaningfully to societal conversations or causes, making an impact with your ideas.

Who is eligible to enter the Re:think essay competition?  

As long as you’re currently attending high school, regardless of your location or background, you’re eligible to participate. We welcome students from diverse educational settings worldwide to contribute their unique perspectives to the competition.

Is there any entry fee for the competition? 

There is no entry fee for the competition. Waiving the entry fee for our essay competition demonstrates CCIR’s dedication to equity. CCIR believes everyone should have an equal chance to participate and showcase their talents, regardless of financial circumstances. Removing this barrier ensures a diverse pool of participants and emphasises merit and creativity over economic capacity, fostering a fair and inclusive environment for all contributors.

Subscribe for Competition Updates

If you are interested to receive latest information and updates of this year’s competition, please sign up here.

Home › Essay Competition 2024 › Essay Competition Winners › 2021 Essay Competition Winner – 16-18

2021 Essay Competition Winner – 16-18

international relations essay competition 2021

Table of Contents

Take a look at one of the winning entries to the Immerse Education Essay Competition from the Business Management category. Congratulations to all participants and in particular to those who won 100% scholarships!

by Kornelia K . Read Kornelias Scholarship Story Here.

What makes a good role model in business?

A role model can mean different things to different people however a widely accepted term is a person who someone admires and whose behaviour they may imitate(1). To be a good role model in business, one should be responsible, ethical, and possess good judgement. These admirable characteristics are a necessity in order to ensure that those under the influence of a person will emulate those qualities, instead of ones that could be viewed as harmful, such as selfishness or unreliability. Moreover, in business, adopting unethical practises and poor judgement can lead to dire consequences. Some repercussions can include legal issues, loss of your company or an inadequate reputation.

Being ethical is one of the most fundamental attributes of a role model, particularly in a business environment. Unethical business practices are anything that falls below minimum standards for business code of conduct (2) and some examples can include defamation, harmful habits,, false product claims and discrimination. The gender pay gap is one controversial case of unethical business practice; in 2020 it was reported that from 2019 to 2020, there was a mean wage gap of 6.5% and a median of 15.9% between men and women (3). Difference in salaries is just one method of discrimination. Fortunately, in a further progressing society, prejudice is being viewed as what it is : unethical. It is crucial for a role model in business to be ethical as aspiring entrepreneurs may believe certain practices to be acceptable which produces a generation of corrupt business people. Another quality of a successful role model is responsibility. To be responsible is to be accountable for one’s behaviour or action (4). Part of human nature is to make mistakes and although this may be inevitable, our actions subsequently are ultimately our decision. Whether we accept responsibility or place blame on other individuals can define our character to those around us. When one acknowledges their errors, it encourages those who associate with them to do the same and also makes adopting solutions uncomplicated. On the other hand, confessing to one faults can make one seem incompetent; however disclosing your short-comings not only assists you in learning from them, but also those who consider you a role model. Having good judgement is an essential aspect of being an influential role model. A person’s reputation can rely heavily on the decisions that affect a business. Kay Whitmore (former CEO of Kodak) unfortunately lacked this attribute when he failed to adapt to an evolving reality. His poor judgement cost him his position when he was eventually fired from his own company in 1993 (5). In contrast, Elon Musk shaped his career through a series of intelligent choices. One of his most prominent companies (Tesla), is believed to be defining a new era with its electric cars (6). They adapted to the world’s concern of climate change and have created one of the most sustainable cars (7) which not only is environmentally friendly but also motivates customers to buy from them. The difference between whether one’s judgement is poor or not, can change your or your company’s reputation. In summary, to be a good role model in business, one should possess qualities of responsibility, morality and be able to make decisions that help your company evolve. Only then can the next generation of entrepreneurs truly thrive.


Cambridge Dictionary, “Role model”. (Accessed 2021-05-28)

L. Holton, “The Ugly Truth About Unethical Business Practices [Updated]”, 17-05-20.

(Accessed 2021-06-03), “DIT gender pay gap report 2019 to 2020”, 15-12-20.

%20gender%20pay%20gap,hourly%20difference%20is%20%C2%A34.04 (Accessed 2021-06-03)

Lexico, “Responsible”. (Accessed 2021-06-03) Member, “Leading By Bad Example: Famous Leaders You Want to be Nothing Like”, 09-02-16.   (Accessed  2021-06-12)

E . Taylor, N. Shirouzu, J. White, “How Tesla defined a new era for the global auto industry”, 22-07-20. (Accessed 2021-06-12)

M. Lewis, “EGEB: Tesla (surprise!) is the most eco-friendly car brand – study”, 13-12-19. (Accessed 2021-06-12)

Why Apply To The Immerse Education Essay Competition? 

Are you a highly motivated student aged 13-18? Have you ever wanted to experience studying at Cambridge or Oxford? 

The Immerse Education essay competition allows you the chance to submit an essay for the chance to be awarded a scholarship to the award-winning Cambridge summer school . 

How To Apply To The Immerse Education Essay Competition? 

The Immerse Education annual essay competition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win a scholarship to a Cambridge or Oxford summer school . 

If you’re aged 13-18 and you’re interested in applying to the Immerse Education essay competition then please visit our essay competition page for more details.

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    1. Essays may be submitted by anyone up to 25 years old (as of June 15, 2024) in one of the following age categories: a) Children (ages up to 14) b) Youth (ages 15 - 25) 2. Essays must be 700 words or less in English or French, or 1600 characters or less in Japanese. Essays must be typed, with your name, email address and essay title included ...

  19. Essay Winners 2021

    Psychology. First place: Fynn Hoffman. Read Fynn's essay. Second place: Mercy Otasowie. Read Mercy's essay. Third place: Grace Forward. Read Grace's essay. We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2021 Essay Competition. We received over 6000 entries this year.

  20. Essay Competition

    About the Competition. The spirit of the Re:think essay competition is to encourage critical thinking and exploration of a wide range of thought-provoking and often controversial topics. The competition covers a diverse array of subjects, from historical and present issues to speculative future scenarios. Participants are invited to engage ...

  21. Essay Competition 2024

    The Immerse Education Essay Competition is open to entries from young people aged 13-18 interested in all subjects, from Architecture to Medicine, Creative Writing to Film Studies. However, students aged 18 should only submit an essay if they will still be 18 when the programmes the scholarships are valid for begin.

  22. 2021 Essay Competition Winner

    The Immerse Education annual essay competition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win a scholarship to a Cambridge or Oxford summer school . If you're aged 13-18 and you're interested in applying to the Immerse Education essay competition then please visit our essay competition page for more details.

  23. Disney, Ford, Microsoft and the age of the quasi-merger

    N o firm is an island. All strike contracts and compete with others. Conversely, when bosses decide a particular relationship would be better governed by fiat, one firm may acquire another.