Essay Competition

The Marshall Society

 “The ideas of economists… both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood… Indeed the world is ruled by little else” 

    J. M. Keynes (General Theory, 1936)

Essay Competition 2021


The Marshall Society, the economics society of the University of Cambridge, is excited to launch its 2021 essay competition. This is an opportunity for all students currently working towards A-levels, the IB or equivalent qualifications to demonstrate their ability to write a convincing and well-structured essay. Emphasis should be placed on sound explanation of economic theory and well-reasoned arguments, drawing on relevant real-world evidence. Entrants are advised to make their essays as concise as the topic allows: the maximum is 1500 words.

Please choose one question to write about. You can only submit one essay per person.

    1. Climate activists believe the environment must be prioritised. Policymakers believe economic growth must not be compromised. Can the two be complementary, or are the economy and the environment competing priorities?
    2. “Bitcoin will do to banks what email did to the postal industry.” Do you think this is true, or is the current boom just a speculative bubble?
    3. Has the Euro experiment failed?
    4. What impacts has the pandemic had on women’s rights in the developing world?
    5. Do minimum wages do what policymakers inted them to do?
    6. Africa has often been described as the “shackled continent”. Is there still hope for economic development in Africa?
    7. Is UBI (universal basic income) an effective poverty-reduction strategy for highly developed countries?

    Writing the essay

    Your essay should be written in English with good grammar and structure. Try to structure your essay in an orderly way; you should build up your argument gradually, instead of asserting it in your first paragraph. The best essays will collect evidence over the course of the essay so that, when it comes to your conclusion, the outcome of your argu- ment will seem inevitable.

    In terms of references, you should cite all your sources along the way. Use the APA (Author, Date) style of citation in the text. (For example, “The persistence of high unemployment rates is mainly associated with rigidities in the labor markets (Bertola and Rogerson, 1997).”) You also have to provide a bibliography, where you list all your sources. Don’t worry too much about sticking to one citation format for this; spend your time writing your essay instead (although look to the APA format as a guide for this). Just make sure all the information needed to verify your sources is in here.

    Before submitting your essay, do a word count. Words in your bibliography and in any data tables don’t count towards the limit, but everything else does. The limit is 1500 words (we will check!). We put a word limit so you can focus on what the really important aspects of the question are. Because of the limit, you shouldn’t worry about providing a complete overview of the topic; rather, focus on getting a really good insight into the key aspects, with facts to back it up.

    Finally, some notes on style:

    • Include page numbers on every page
    • On the first page, include the question, question number, your name and your school.


    The deadline for submissions is the end of Sunday, 1st August 2021.

    Before submitting, please convert your file to a PDF and change the file name to “[your name] Q[question number].pdf”. (For example, “Charlie Murphy Q4.pdf”.) Use the submission form on the Marshall Society website to submit your essay (see below). Do not email it to us: we will not read it if you do!


    Winners and runners-up will be announced in September 2021 (prizes are TBA). There will be a prize for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place and an honorable mention for more outstanding essays. Additionally, with the permission of contestants, we will publish some of the best entries in the next edition of the Marshall Society magazine, the Dismal Scientist.

    Please also observe that by entering you agree to the terms and conditions listed below:

      1. Your submitted essay must be your work alone and any assistance given to you whilst writing your essay must be declared in your email.
      2. You cannot make any revisions to your essay once it has been submitted.
      3. Only students who have not started an undergraduate degree can enter. Please note that you do not have to be studying in the UK to enter.
      4. Any personal data relating to entrants will be used solely for the purpose of this competition and will not be disclosed to any third parties for any purpose without prior consent.
      5. The essay that is entered may not be entered into any other competition.
      6. The winner, runners up and those with shortlisted essays will be contacted via the email used to submit the essay. Unfortunately, any other feedback will not be possible to any of the entrants.
      7. The Marshall Society reserves the final right, where necessary, to make amendments to the above terms and conditions and to select the winners of the competition