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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)



R.A. Butler Essay Prize

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 by August.

The Lisa Smirl PhD Prize

The Department offers a prize of £200 for the best PhD completed in the previous academic year. The Prize is named in memory of Lisa Smirl, who gained her PhD in the Department in 2010 but who sadly died of cancer in February 2013. At the end of the academic year, supervisors nominate students who they believe are worthy of the prize. The nominated reports are reviewed by the PhD director and the final decision ratified by the Graduate Education Committee.

The Joffé Award

A prize for the best MPhil dissertation on the international relations and/or politics of the Middle East and North Africa.

 The Aaron Rapport Teaching Prize

The Aaron Rapport Teaching Prize is given each year to the member of the POLIS academic community who is specially commended by our students for their teaching.

MPhil in Public Policy Prizes

The MPhil in Public Policy awards an annual prize to the student who achieves the highest mark on their Independent Research Paper, and to the student who finishes with the highest overall average.


Undergraduate Prizes


The Geoffrey Hawthorn Prize

The Geoffrey Hawthorn Prize is awarded to the student with the highest average on papers POL1 and POL2; a candidate must be taking both papers to be eligible. The prize is named after Emeritus Professor and former Head of Department Geoffrey Hawthorn, who sadly passed away in December 2015.


The John Dunn Prize

The John Dunn Prize is awarded for the best dissertation by a final year student and is named after Emeritus Professor John Dunn. 

The John Dunn Prize for 2019-20 was shared by Yi Nin Chang and Kateřina Cohnová. Congratulations to both of them for their excellent dissertations. 

Yi Nin had this to say: My dissertation explores political thinking on race and modernity at the moments when the Malayan, Malaysian and Singaporean states came into being. I wrote with the aim of putting the history of political thought in conversation with Southeast Asia – the two don't often meet – and engaging with recent work in postcolonial theory. Writing this piece was the highlight of my undergraduate studies: under Dr Iza Hussin's guidance, I learned a good deal about doing archival research, grappling with theory, and becoming a sharper, more effective writer.

Kateřina made this comment: In my dissertation, I pursued my interest in the variety of conceptualisations of republican liberty, arguing that while in the late Roman republic democracy was not a necessary prerequisite for ensuring citizens' freedom from arbitrary interference, the exercise of political agency by all citizens does indeed become indispensable for their republican freedom following a conceptual shift in the understanding of dignity in the transition from ancient to modern politics. Gradually working through the argument was an immensely rewarding experience, and I am very grateful to Dr Brooke for consistently pushing me to embrace the uncertainties of research and to consider new and more complex dimensions of the topic.


The Schmidt Prize

The Schmidt Prize is awarded for the best long essay submitted by a second year student. 

Eric Kettmann was the winner for 2019-20, so congratulations to him for his hard work. 

'In my essay I argued that differentiated integration is and has always been a useful tool to further and enable European integration. Especially in the areas of defense, migration policy and external relations, deepening, improving and extending the existing system of variable geometry inside the EU is highly desirable both for the Union and the member states. Analysing and evaluating the various proposals for increased differentiation was a thoroughly enjoyable exercise, which was greatly helped by the very open structure of POL5. Having an entire term to take a deeper look at a topic was a very nice experience, as this allowed me to not only spend significantly more time and thought on researching the topic, but also to refine and continuously improve the argument I was making. I can thus only recommend POL5, it is a highly rewarding paper that enables you to venture beyond the sometimes narrow confines of weekly essays.'