Essay Prizes

Thank you for your interest in Peterhouse's Vellacott History Prize, Kelvin Science Prize and Thomas Campion English Prize. Please note that the Essay Competitions for 2015 are now closed and winners and highly commended entrants will be notified by letter in early June 2015. Information will also be posted on this website.

Questions for the 2016 Essay Competitions will be posted in November 2015.

History and purposes of the prizes

For many years, Peterhouse has been proud to organise the Vellacott History essay competition and the Kelvin Science essay competition was set up in 1999 to try to duplicate its success. In 2008 we instituted the Thomas Campion English essay competition, kindly funded by the Friends of Peterhouse. All three competitions have a top prize of £500 and a second prize of £250; several further essays will be highly commended.

All three prizes have the following aims:

  • to give students in Year 12 or Lower Sixth who are considering applying to university an opportunity to write about a subject in which they are personally interested, developing and experiencing the independent study skills which they will need in order to do well at A level and university.
  • to support teachers by providing challenging extension work for talented students and by giving those students contact with Higher Education.
  • to encourage high-flying students to consider applying to Cambridge by giving them a taste of the type of work they would experience here.
  • to recognise the achievement and effort of the best of these students through prizes and commendations and to give them the opportunity of receiving feedback from leading scientists, historians and English specialists.
How the winners are chosen

The standard of entries is always high and choosing winners is extremely difficult. The judges are particularly looking for originality of thought, a clear writing style, breadth of research and source materials (including books, websites and other sources) and a critical approach to those sources. They are also looking for a clear structure to the essay.

We are aware that websites that purport to offer to write or complete essays for this and other competitions exist. Entries composed in this way are fraudulent and will not be accepted. It is also worth noting that many of the websites themselves appear to be scamming operations.

Huge congratulations go to the winners of last year's competition, listed in the drop-down menus below. In addition, we would like to reiterate how high the standard of entries was and how hard it was to choose our winners. We would not wish those not mentioned below to lose interest in applying to Cambridge on the basis of this competition. If you have any questions about applying to Cambridge, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Admissions Office; unfortunately, we are unable to give bespoke feedback on the essays submitted to this competition.

Vellacott History Prizewinners 2014


Elizabeth Hong (Stratford-upon-Avon Grammar School for Girls) who considered the quote ‘And if a man considers the original of this great ecclesiastical dominion, he will easily perceive that the papacy is no other than the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof…’ (Thomas Hobbes).


John Cremin (King Edward VI Aston School for Boys) who commented on this passage from Mary McCarthy’s The Group (1963): ‘In an economy of plenty and leisure, which the machine had already made feasible, everybody would only have to work a few hours a day.’


Alasdair Donovan (The Institute of Education, Dublin)

Lucia Keijer-Palau (Woldingham School)

Fionn Montell-Boyd (Wimbledon High School)

Theo Serlin (City of London School)

Natasha Y Santos (Badminton School)

Kelvin Science Prizewinners 2014


Eleanor Sheekey (Highcliffe Sixth Form) who considered why women live longer than men.


Kristian Stokkereit (Alton College) who wrote an essay on his experiment which proved whether force really is proportional to mass times acceleration.


Abra Ganz (Pate’s Grammar School)

Aoife Walls (St Dominic’s High School)

Nicolas Weninger (St Paul’s School)

Thomas Campion English Prizewinners 2014


Vittoria Forliti (Dallam School) who considered whether interpretation was more than ‘the revenge of the intellect upon art.’ (SUSAN SONTAG)


Jemma Slingo (Northampton High School for Girls) who wrote an essay on the literary treatment of gender, based on the quotation: ‘There is no such thing as a masculine mystery...Mystery belongs to the slave’ (SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR)


Kathryn Cussons (St Paul’s Girls’ School)

Rebecca Hutchings (Bedford Girls’ School)

Oonagh Madden-Wells (Burntwood School)

George Rayson (Pate’s Grammar School)