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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)


The 2023 R.A. Butler Prize winners at the celebratory event in Cambridge, September 2023, flanked by two current POLIS students, Bao and Zalma. (Photo: Edward Murambwa)

The R.A. Butler Prize for essays in politics and international studies

Thank you to everyone who entered the 2023 R.A. Butler Prize competition.  

The 2023 winners are:

First prize: John Paul Cheng, Winchester College, Winchester

Second prize: Fela Callahan, Harris Westminster Sixth Form, London

Special commendations were awarded to: Joud Algazlan (Elthorne Park High School, London), Ethan Crane (Poole Grammar School, Dorset), Krish Deshpande (Colchester Royal Grammar School, Essex), Rhianna Gorman (Winstanley College, Wigan), Jinn Ong (Benenden School, Kent), Catherine Patterson (St George’s College, Weybridge, Surrey), Benjamin Woolfe (The Blue School, Wells, Somerset) and Meagan Tam (Cheltenham Ladies' College, Gloucestershire).


Questions for the next round of the competition will be released in March 2024.

What is the R.A. Butler Prize?

The R.A. Butler Prize competition is open to students in Year 12 or the Lower 6th.

The Prize is jointly organised by Trinity College Cambridge and Cambridge University’s Department of Politics and International Studies.

It 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 those who teach them.

2023 Questions

Answer one of the following. You are encouraged to use a diverse selection of contemporary, historical or literary examples in making your arguments, and not to restrict yourself to material taken from school courses. Essays should be no longer than 3,000 words, including any footnotes.

1. Are political promises always a sign of political weakness?

2. Should states and organisations that benefitted from slavery pay reparations to descendants of those who were enslaved?

3. Do we now live in an era of de-globalisation?

4. Why do we provide more support to victims of natural disasters than to victims of war?

5. Should countries in the Global South be compelled to abandon the use of fossil fuels?

6. Is a society’s level of civilisation revealed by entering its prisons?

7. Should Britain re-join the EU?

8. Should those who work for the public sector have the same rights to strike as those who work in the private sector?

9. What should be the political ramifications of the 2021 census showing that less than half of the population in England and Wales identify as Christian?

10. Would politics be better without political parties?


The deadline for submission was 12 noon (BST) on Tuesday 1st August 2023.

Entries should be submitted via:

Useful information


Essays should be 3000 words at most, 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”.


The Prize is for students in Year 12 or Lower 6th at the time the questions are released in March. Students abroad are most welcome to participate. They should, however, be in their penultimate year of school. Each entrant to the competition is allowed to submit only one essay. 

Rules of eligibility are on:


The deadline for submission was 12 noon (BST) on Tuesday 1st August 2023.


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 are announced in September and will be invited to visit the College to meet some of the teaching staff.


Any queries from students who may be interested in submitting work for the prize, or their teachers, should be emailed to

Previous Prize winners

2022 winners:

First prize: Eunju Seo, North London Collegiate School Jeju, Republic of Korea
Second prize: Luke Grierson, High Storrs School, Sheffield

2021 winners:

First prize: Saumya Nair, Cheltenham Ladies' College, Gloucestershire
Second prize (joint): Liyana Eliza Glenn, home-schooled, UK
Second prize (joint):  Amr Hamid, St Paul's School, London

2020 winners:  

First prize: Lydia Allenby, Gosforth Academy, Newcastle upon Tyne
Second prize: Louis Danker, City of London School, London

2019 winners:

First Prize: Matthew Gursky, Hall Cross Academy, Doncaster
Second Prize: Evie Morgan, Ipswich School, Ipswich

2018 winners:
First Prize: Gergely Bérces, Milestone Institute, Budapest, Hungary
Second Prize: Tatyana Goodwin, Varndean College, Brighton & Eloise George, Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge

2017 winners:
First Prize: Folu Ogunyeye, Aylesbury High School
Second Prize: Eve McMullen, Minster School, Southwell

2016 winners: 
First Prize: Silas Edwards, St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, Bristol
Second Prize: Eliza Harry, Greene's Tutorial College, Oxford

2015 winners: 
First Prize: Stephen Horvath, Westminster School, London
Second Prize: Grace Elshafei, Sevenoaks School, Kent

2014 winners:
First Prize: Oscar Alexander-Jones, St Paul's School, London
Second Prize: Sam Maybee, King Edward VI Five Ways School, Birmingham

2013 winners:
First prize: Eleanor Shearer, Westminster School, London
Second prize (joint): Stephanie Clarke, Lancaster Girls' Grammar School, Lancaster
Second prize (joint): Will Barnes, Manchester Grammar School, Manchester

2012 winners:
First prize: Kiah Ashford-Stow, King Edward VI School, Southampton
Second prize: Jamie Sproul, Stamford School, Stamford, Lincolnshire

2011 winners:
First prize: Aman Rizvi, Winchester College, Winchester
Second prize: Frans Robyns, Kings College School, Wimbledon