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National Student Paper Competition

Connecting talented graduates with the Government of Canada

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The National Student Paper Competition (NSPC) was launched in 2013 with the aim of:

  • introducing innovative ideas and bright new thinkers to the Canadian public service
  • enhancing public service excellence and encouraging high performance

The NSPC offers a unique opportunity for talented graduate students to connect with senior public servants, expand their networks, nurture their leadership skills, and foster employment opportunities with the federal public service.

The NSPC is an annual competition organized by the Canada School of Public Service in partnership with the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration and the Institute of Public Administration of Canada. The competition is also supported by various Canadian higher-education institutions and associations, including the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies.

Outcomes and benefits of the competition

  • A strong partnership between the federal public service, universities and higher-education associations that encourages graduate students to apply academic knowledge and skills to inform Canadian public policy and the Public Service of Canada.
  • An increased number of promising graduate students in different fields of expertise across Canadian universities working with the federal public service and contributing with innovative, research-based ideas to enhance the lives of all Canadians.
  • A talented, diverse, inclusive and modern workforce equipped with the skills needed to embrace new workplace challenges, design services, mobilize knowledge, and respond to the country's evolving needs.

Learn more about the benefits of this initiative:

Video: National Student Paper Competition

Video: National Student Paper Competition
Government executives and past winners highlight the benefits of the National Student Paper Competition.

Video: Winner of the 8th National Student Paper Competition - Bhajan Gill

Video: Winner of the 8th National Student Paper Competition - Bhajan Gill
Bhajan Gill, winner of the 8th National Student Paper Competition and currently a policy analyst with the Canada School of Public Service, answers a series of questions about her experience during and after the competition.

Video: Winner of the 9th National Student Paper Competition - Aisha Barkhad

Video: Winner of the 9th National Student Paper Competition - Aisha Barkhad
Graduate student Aisha Barkhad, winner of the 9th National Student Paper Competition, answers a series of questions about her experience during and after the competition. 

Candidate eligibility

Are you a talented Canadian graduate student looking for an opportunity to apply your knowledge to advance the federal public service?

Are you interested in building your network by connecting with senior officials in the Government of Canada?

Do you have an inspiring and innovative idea that can improve a Canadian policy or program?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, consider applying to the NSPC.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada
  • Graduate (master's and PhD) students enrolled in a publicly funded Canadian university for at least one academic term during the 2022–2023 academic year, on a full-time or part-time basis
  • Team applications, with a maximum of two members, are permitted, although, all members must meet the above requirements. A team application that includes collaborators from other universities is permitted.

The NSPC initiative is committed to contributing to a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive Canadian public service. We strongly encourage the participation of students from equity-seeking groups, including graduate students with disabilities, 2SLGBTQI+ students, Indigenous students and BIPOC students.

This competition is designed to remove barriers, ensure a fair assessment, and allow all candidates to fully demonstrate their competencies. Accommodation measures are available to applicants upon request by email or voluntary indication on the online submissions.


The Grand Prize winner(s) of the competition will receive the following:

  • A 4-month internship with the Canadian federal public service (staffing mechanism depends on individual situation)
  • Invitations to attend or present at academic and governmental conferences and panels

The winner and the top five finalists will:

How to apply

If you are interested in participating in the NSPC, you should:

  1. Contact a professor or supervisor in your Canadian university department, program or faculty to seek support
  2. Submit the paper to the professor or supervisor, who should then complete the online application form and submit three versions of the paper.

Select your topic

The NSPC is designed to allow graduate students to share inspiring and innovative ideas on topics related to governance and the Public Service of Canada. Papers should focus on the current priorities and concerns of the Government of Canada. All submissions on any other issue relevant to the federal public service are also welcome. To understand our current priorities, see in particular:

More information is available on the websites of the Privy Council Office and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

Each paper should be a forward-looking think piece that explores innovative ideas and approaches to help position Canada and Canadians for the coming decade through solutions delivered by the Government of Canada.

In determining the paper's topic, applicants may want to consider the following questions:

  • What are your ideas about how to ensure that the public service is ready to meet the needs of the future?
  • What are the major social, economic, technological and/or environmental challenges facing Canada in the next decade? What policy strategies should Canada pursue to address them?
  • What emerging topics will have a significant impact on the federal public service and service excellence for Canadians?
  • What would it take to move your idea from policy approval to implementation?

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Anti-racism, diversity, accessibility, inclusion and equity
  • Digital government and artificial intelligence
  • Climate change and sustainable development
  • Government and democratic societies
  • Indigenous affairs, reconciliation
  • Public administration innovation and partnerships
  • Canadian policies and program improvement
  • Public and international affairs
  • Public service resilience and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Skills development and the well-being of Canadians and public servants

Paper criteria

Please review the applicant checklist before submitting your paper.
  • 1. Find a professor or supervisor from your university program to endorse the paper and provide necessary information. (See application form.)
  • 2. Define a topic for the paper based on the competition criteria.
  • 3. Review the paper to meet the guidelines.
    • 3.1 The paper is a maximum of 1500 words, excluding the cover page, bibliography, footnotes/endnotes, appendices or any tables, charts and figures.
    • 3.2 The paper follows an essay format.
    • 3.3 The paper uses a standard citation style.
  • 4. Submitting the paper: Three copies
    • 4.1 No. 1 – PDF format:
      A cover page formatted with cover page including title, author names, email addresses, word count, university, and author university program. Name and institutional email address of professor or supervisor.
    • 4.2 No. 2 – MS Word format:
      A cover page formatted with cover page including title, author names, email addresses, word count, university, and author university program. Name and institutional email address of professor or supervisor.
    • 4.3 No. 3 – MS Word format: A cover page with name of paper and word count only, omitting author name and university.

Submitted papers must meet the following technical requirements:

  • A single-authored or co-authored paper, either in English or in French
  • A new work or one adapted from an earlier original academic course or academic research work
  • A maximum of 1500 words (excluding the cover page, bibliography, footnotes/endnotes, appendices or any tables, charts and figures)
  • Essay format using any standard citation style
  • Submitted in each of the following three formats
    • PDF, including:
      • cover page with the paper's title and word count
      • author's name and email address
      • university and program of study
      • name and institutional email address of professor or supervisor who is submitting on behalf of their student
    • MS Word
      • Identical content to PDF version
    • MS Word, including:
      • cover page with only the title of the paper and the word count. Do not include the author's name and university.

Visit the CAPPA website to learn more about the top papers from past editions of the NSPC.

Evaluation criteria and process

The submitted papers will be evaluated using the matrix below.

Originality and innovation
  • Presents a novel, well-thought-out and feasible approach
  • Understands the topic, proposes innovative approaches and solutions to new and existing challenges for Canada
  • Takes a unique perspective on or dimension of an issue of concern for Canadians
Research and references
  • Well-conducted research supports the arguments
  • Draws from diverse sources of academic research and/or government publications
  • Includes complete citations and follows a consistent reference style
Structure and writing style
  • The paper follows a clear structure
  • Even flow of the paper with a logical sequence of ideas
  • Free of typos and grammatical mistakes
Relevance to the federal public service
  • The issue is a priority of the federal public service
  • Identifies the importance of the selected topic, as well as the key drivers
  • Demonstrates potential practical application by the federal public service
Relevance to the broader Canadian population
  • The issue is a concern to the broader Canadian population
  • Offers clear, realistic advice that will benefit the broader Canadian population

After all submissions have been evaluated and the scores for each essay have been tallied, the authors of the five highest-scoring essays will be selected.

To determine the winner, the top five finalists will be asked to present their research to a panel of senior government executives. The panel will evaluate and rank the presentations to determine the winner based on their:

  • articulation of knowledge and integrated skills
  • ability to communicate, argue and defend innovative ideas
  • confidence and collaborative interaction with the panellists
  • willingness to propose meaningful policy recommendations to inform and enhance the federal public service and Canadian society

Key dates

Description Date
Online submissions open November 1, 2022
Online submissions closed February 20, 2023
Announcement of top 5 finalists Spring 2023
Presentation of finalists' papers before virtual panel of senior public service executives Spring 2023
Announcement of the winner(s) Early summer 2023

Contact information

Should you have any questions about the competition or the submission process, please contact the NSPC team at

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