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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 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)
14 August 2019 14 September 2019


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 A.C. Stephen. Awarded annually to an undergraduate for a short story or play following recommendation from the Professors of English for the best entry.

Beauchamp Prizes

Value: $4000
Eligibility: All currently enrolled students and graduates (who are of not more than two years from the date of their graduation) 

Founded in 1901 by a gift of £625 from his Excellency the Right Honourable William Lygon, Earl Beauchamp, KCMG, Governor of New South Wales. These composition prizes are awarded for the best essays on a literary or historical subject. Essays should be between 5000 and 7500 words in length and be suitable for publication in an academic journal.

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: $1250
Eligibility: Undergraduate students

Established in 1945 from a gift of £250 from Dr HM Moran, for an annual essay prize. The candidate is free to choose their topic within the field of the history of science and medicine in Australia. Essays should be 5000 words max.

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. 

2019 Topic: Discuss any aspect of literary encounters with the dead.
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 (which may be shared if there is more than one recipient)
Eligibility: All currently enrolled students and graduates (who are not more than two years away from their graduation date) 

Founded in 1922 from a gift of £500 from Venour V Nathan for an annual prize awarded for an essay on a subject connected to Australian or Imperial history.

Two awards will be made each year for the best essay from:

  1. a student currently enrolled in an undergraduate degree (3000 words max).
  2. a student currently enrolled in a postgraduate degree or a graduate who is no more than two years away from their graduation date (5000 words max).

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: 8 August 2019
Close date: 8 September 2019

Topic for 2019: The internet, and social media in particular, is currently inadequately regulated and, as such, poses a threat to democracy. Discuss.
How to apply: Apply here. Please note that no early or late submissions will be accepted under any circumstances.

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 (Registrar)
  • 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).