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Literary prizes

Awarded annually
We offer an array of prizes for submissions in a variety of written forms including poems, plays and essays.

The University of Sydney's annual literary prizes have a long history, with many dating back to bequests received at the beginning of the 20th century. 

All literary prizes require an application and the submission of written work, typically an essay or poem, on a selected topic. Written work should be submitted under a nom de plume.

Apply Open date Close date
Application portal (for all literary prizes except the Wentworth Medal)
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All prizes and medals are awarded subject to providing a signed and dated Copyright Release Form (pdf, 37KB). The University of Sydney reserves the right not to award a prize if submissions are not deemed to be of sufficient standard. 

Adrian Consett Stephen Memorial Prize

Value: $200
Eligibility: Undergraduate students

Established in 1944 by a bequest of £100 from Emilie AC Stephen. Awarded annually to an undergraduate for a short story or play following a recommendation from the Professors of English for the best entry.

Beauchamp Prize

Value: $10,000
Eligibility: Applicants must be one of the following:

  • enrolled at the University of Sydney in an undergraduate degree, or
  • a graduate of the University of Sydney who completed an undergraduate degree no more than five years previously at the time of their application.

The Beauchamp Prize is awarded for the best essay on some matter of literary or historical interest. This Prize is funded by a gift from his Excellency the Right Honourable William Lygon, Earl Beauchamp, KCMG, Governor of New South Wales. 

Applicants must submit an essay on some matter of literary or historical interest with a word limit between 5000 and 7500 words.

Terms and conditions (pdf, 137.4KB).

Henry Lawson Prize for Prose

Value: $1500
Eligibility: Undergraduate students (who have no graduate status in any faculty)

Established in 1936 from a gift of £845 from subscribers to the memorial of Henry Lawson, Australian poet and prose-writer, this prize is awarded annually for an original composition on an Australian theme. Compositions should take the form of a short story or descriptive sketch. There is no set length, however, sustained quality will receive due credit.

Henry Lawson Prize for Poetry

Value: $1400
Eligibility: Undergraduate students (who have no graduate status in any faculty)

Established in 1936 from a gift of £845 from subscribers to the memorial of Henry Lawson, Australian poet and prose-writer, this prize is awarded annually for English verse. There is no set length, however, sustained quality will receive due credit. The candidate is free to choose their topic.

HM Moran Prize

Value: $2250
Eligibility: Undergraduate students who are catholic.

The HM Moran Prize was established in 1945 from a gift of £250 from Dr HM Moran and is awarded for the best essay. Applicants must submit an essay (maximum 5000 words) on the history of medicine and science.

Terms and conditions (pdf, 124.1KB).

Nicholson Medal

Value: $1500
Eligibility: All currently enrolled students and graduates (who are not more than two years away from their graduation date)

The Nicholson Medal was established in 1866 when the sum of £200 was set aside by the Senate for the purpose of permanently founding a medal in honour of Sir Charles Nicholson, Bt, MD Edin. Hon. DCL Oxf. Hon. LLD Camb., Provost 1854 to 1859, Chancellor 1860 to 1861.

The purpose of the medal is to provide an annual prize for Latin verse and it is awarded annually on the recommendation of the Professor of Classics, for either:

  • translation of a set piece into Latin verse
  • translation of a set piece of Latin verse into English verse
  • an essay on a prescribed topic in the field of Latin poetry (this may be a regular essay set for a senior course in Latin).

Nicholson Medal: Topic and Latin verse (pdf, 75.2KB)

Robert A Dallen Prize

Value: $1600
Eligibility: Final year Faculty of Arts and Social Science students or graduates (who are not more than two years away from their graduation date)

Founded in 1929 by an endowment of £150 by Mr Robert A Dallen for an annual prize. 

Synopsis: Literature across time and in many languages presents scenes of encounters with the dead, such visions of the dead or the raising of the dead, or consulting the dead through occult practices.

Venour V Nathan Prize

Value: $4000
Eligibility: Applicants must be one of the following:

  • enrolled at the University of Sydney, or
  • a graduate of the University of Sydney who graduated no more than two years previously at the time of their application.

The Venour V Nathan Prize is awarded for the best essay on a subject connected to Australian or Imperial history. This prize is funded by a donation from Venour V Nathan.

Applicants must submit an essay (3000 word limit) on a subject connected to Australian or Imperial history.

Terms and conditions (pdf, 136.2KB).

Wentworth Medal

Value: $20,000 and medal
Eligibility: All students enrolled at the University of Sydney (except for previous winners of the Wentworth Medal)
Open date: 4 August 2020 
Close date: 6 September 2020

Topic for 2020: An appropriate response to climate change requires that we draw on lessons from the physical sciences, social sciences and humanities. Discuss. 3000 word limit.

How to apply: Apply here. Please note that no early or late submissions will be accepted under any circumstances. All submissions will be screened through TurnItIn for Academic Integrity.

Established in 1854 from a gift of £200 from WC Wentworth, this medal was initially presented as a reward for the best essay in English prose and now seeks to reward an outstanding essay addressing a nominated question.

The topic or topics for the essay will be set each year and the examiners of the essay will be appointed by the Wentworth Medal Committee (who have the power to co-opt). The committee consists of the:

  • Chair of the Academic Board
  • Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education)
  • Deans of:
    • the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
    • the University of Sydney Business School
    • the University of Sydney Law School.

The committee reserves the right to share the prize if there are two or more entries that are judged to be of equal, highest and sufficient merit.

The essay should be approximately 3000 words (not including referencing). It should demonstrate a breadth of research, be of a high scholarly standard and include appropriate referencing. In assessing the quality of the essay the panel will consider:

  • its clarity and accessibility
  • the quality of the argument upon which it is constructed
  • its originality (specifically its ability to shed new light on the given topic).