Duration: 1 year full time or 2 years part time
Institution code: R72
Campus: Central London
UK fees*: £9,800
International/EU fees**: £20,000
Creative Writing (MA)
This course allows you to develop your work as a writer to a professional level, going beyond the personal to write with an engaged sense of literary culture, its social role and contemporary practices. The MA is designed for students with an established writing practice who are intending to develop their creative writing beyond first-degree level. It is also designed for those students wishing to proceed to MPhil or PhD. This MA is taught at Royal Holloway London Graduate School in central London, in the heart of literary Bloomsbury, putting you within walking distance of publishing houses, bookshops, major UK libraries and all of the other cultural attractions of central London.
You will take one of four distinct pathways:
- Literary Non-Fiction
- Poetic Practice
While the pathways share a similar structure, they are taught separately so as to ensure you can work to a consistently high level. Please see the Course structure section below for more details on each of these.
The MA ranks among the top creative-writing courses in the country and is taught by leading writers whose work encompasses a wide range of approaches and styles.
- Sean Borodale’s Bee Journal was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and Costa Book Award.
- Lavinia Greenlaw has received a Forward Prize for Poem of the Year, the Prix du Premier Roman, a Wellcome Engagement Fellowship and the Ted Hughes Award.
- Nikita Lalwani won the Desmond Elliot Award, and was shortlisted for the Costa Prize and longlisted for the Man Booker prize.
- Redell Olsen has been Judith E. Wilson Fellow in Poetry at Cambridge.
- Anna Whitwham’s novel Boxer Handsome was a New Statesman and Guardian Book of the Year.
- Eley Williams’s Attrib. and other stories won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Republic of Consciousness Prize.
- Matt Thorne has been longlisted for the Man Booker prize and is a winner of the Royal Society of Literature's Encore prize.
- Dr James Wilkes published his first collection of poetry with Penned in the Margins and his interdisciplinary projects have included collaborations with the Wellcome Trust and BBC Radio 4.
Our prizewinning, internationally successful alumni include the novelists Sarah Perry, Tahmima Anam, Jenni Fagan and Barney Norris; short-story writer and poet Eley Williams; and the poets Liz Berry, Kayo Chingonyi, Sam Riviere and Sophie Robinson.
This weekly one-and-a-half hour seminar is taught within pathway groups and focuses on a broad range of critical texts by practising writers among others. It aims to provide you with the appropriate critical and theoretical skills for discussing your creative work. The course also aims to prepare you for you dissertation. You will acquire a range of critical concepts and vocabulary, a range of critical and theoretical approaches, and the necessary skills to undertake sophisticated reflection and discourse.
This seminar is taught within pathway groups. Students propose texts (and non-textual works) for this syllabus, which is then devised by your tutor. You will make a short presentation on one of your chosen works during the term. The seminar encourages you to think about what it means to read as a writer, how the writer constructs the reader’s experience, and how this insight might inform your own literary composition. It considers different approaches to reading, and the relationship between practice and theory. You will learn how to demonstrate the ways in which reading contributes to your own developing practice as a writer.
- You will undertake a major extended fiction, non-fiction, poetry or poetic practice project under supervision. This will be either 15,000 words of prose, 24 pages of poetry or textual equivalent (to be agreed with the supervisor).
- The Creative Writing Project arises out of work developed in the workshop. In all cases, this should be new work not included in previous coursework submissions however much it has been revised. It can be a different part, or parts, of the same body of work, such as a novel. An important dimension of the MA is to give you the opportunity to begin serious work on a major project that would prepare you for the submission of this work to a publisher or the basis for an application for a practice-based research of a PhD as applicable to you. The Creative Writing Project is a crucial element in this preparation. It will be researched and written mainly in the summer term and during the summer vacation. You should draw on and develop the skills, and the critical and creative contexts, acquired in the first two terms. You should also seek to demonstrate independence, self-direction and originality in your approach to the project’s completion.
- Poetry does not have to have a collective theme or be a sequence, though these are acceptable.
- Poetic Practice - digital, bookworks and other formats of submission are acceptable but should be agreed in advance with the supervisor.
An important dimension of the MA is to give you the opportunity to begin serious work on a major research project that relates to your practice. This could prepare you for an application for the practice-based PhD.
The Extended Essay (Creative Writing) is a crucial element in this preparation. It will be researched and written mainly in the summer term and during the summer vacation. The principle aim of the Extended Essay (Creative Writing) is to enable you to demonstrate your ability to reflect critically and theoretically, and to locate your practice in relation to contemporary writing practices. You should draw on and develop skills acquired in the first two terms. The subject of the extended essay is to be agreed with the supervisor.
You will learn how to structure and edit your prose to a publishable standard while also developing an expert sense of how best to draw on the personal, the actual and the imagination. We have no house style, and encourage both experiment and rigour. In developing your analytical and editorial skills, you will sharpen your self-criticism.
The content of the workshops will be dictated by the presentations of work in progress by the members of the group, and by the critical dialogue that develops from these presentations. Your tutor will draw up a schedule for this and work will be circulated in advance. You will read and annotate this work and come to class ready to discuss it. Reading of literary exempla and extracts will also feed into workshop discussions. Your tutor may set exercises or additional advance reading, and you will receive intensive feedback supported by individual tutorials.
This pathway is for writers of all kinds of poetry, who are focused on publication on the page. You will learn how to locate and refine your personal poetics, and how to develop a poem to its fullest potential. You will be taught how to revise and edit a poem, how to sustain a writing practice, and how to locate your poetry within a broader literary context.
The workshop welcomes all styles and approaches to poetry focused on publication on the page. The content of the workshops will be dictated by the presentations of work in progress by the members of the group, and by the critical dialogue that develops from these presentations. Your tutor will draw up a schedule for this and work will be circulated in advance. You will read and annotate this work and come to class ready to discuss it. Reading of literary exempla and extracts will also feed into workshop discussions. Your tutor may set exercises or additional advance reading, and you will receive intensive feedback supported by individual tutorials.
This pathway foregrounds the writing in an expanded field of contemporary poetic practice. It offers a consideration of contemporary trends in innovative and experimental poetry: redefinitions of lyric writing, bookworks, visual poetics, performance, sound, conceptual writing, digital poetics and site-specific work.
You will develop, and reflect on, your own practice in the context of an understanding of contemporary experimental practice in poetry from the UK and North America, and consider how contemporary poetry and poetics intersect with such fields as conceptual art writing, sound art, live art, digital poetics, book arts, installed texts and writing in relation to site.
You will explore the broad range of possibilities that literary non-fiction has to offer from memoir to manifesto, from the essay to the hybrid form. You can experiment with the interface between fiction and memoir, and discover how to write out of the self without a form in mind. You will be taught how to activate and deploy your research. You will learn how to draw on these to develop original work of your own to publishable standard.
The workshop will include an exploration of the full range of approaches that non-fiction has to offer. We will encourage you to explore them all, and to draw freely on them in your own work, taking an interdisciplinary approach. We will also teach you how to use the tools and devices of fiction and poetry in the writing of non-fiction. The workshop is also where you present work in progress, and you will receive intensive feedback supported by individual tutorials.
In the autumn term, students will have the opportunity to explore a range of literary non- fiction practices. Working with exempla, which will be read in advance and discussed in class, you will undertake writing exercises, imitation and invention. In the spring term, you will be presenting and critiquing your own creative work-in-progress while continuing to discuss other texts that cast light on the issues that arise.
All modules are core
Teaching & assessment
You will work in small groups and with extensive individual attention. We are looking for people who will flourish from working intensively within a rigorous and experimental but supportive environment. In addition to workshops, you will take modules in Supplementary Discourses and Reading as a Writer, seminars designed to enhance your understanding of your own practice as well as the broader literary context in which you will be situating your work.
You will submit creative and critical coursework, and will undertake a final practical project and dissertation on practice.
In the summer term, you will receive individual supervision and will be offered a programme of events and masterclasses introducing you to leading writers, editors and agents who can advise on next steps. Enhancing the experience, there are regular readings and talks given by students, staff and visiting writers.
Creative coursework (Full-time students and first-year part-time students)
The first portfolio of fiction or non-fiction or poetry (5,000 words prose, 12 pp poetry or equivalent agreed with your tutor) will be submitted for feedback at the beginning of the Spring Term. This is a formative submission which means that it is not formally graded. You will receive feedback and an indicative grade. Under the guidance of your tutor, you then revise this work and resubmit it at the beginning of the Summer Term. It is then a summative submission and is formally assessed.
The second portfolio (identical requirements) will be submitted for formal assessment, along with a revised first portfolio, at the beginning of the Summer Term.
Essays (Full-time students and second-year part-time students)
The essay for Supplementary Discourses will be submitted for feedback at the beginning of the Spring Term. This is a formative submission which means that it is not formally graded. You will receive feedback and an indicative grade. Under the guidance of your tutor, you then revise this work and resubmit it at the beginning of the Summer Term. It is then a summative submission and is formally assessed.
The essay for Reading as a Writer will be submitted for summative assessment at the beginning of the of Summer Term.
Creative Writing Project and Dissertation on Practice (Full-time students and second-year part-time students)
Students receive individual supervisions in the summer term towards the completion of these two submissions, which are made in September.
Single or combined honours English.
Normally we require a UK 2:1 (Honours) or equivalent in relevant subjects but we will consider a high 2:2 or relevant work experience. Candidates with professional qualifications in an associated area may be considered. Where a ‘high 2:2’ is considered, we would normally define this as reflecting a profile of 57% or above.
Applicants with degrees in other subjects or with relevant publications are also encouraged to apply. Past students have come from a range of first-degree backgrounds.
You will be required to submit an example of your writing: either a piece of fiction or non-fiction prose of up to 5,000 words in length or at least 12 pages of poetry. This must be in the genre(s) for which you would like to be considered.
You will also be required to submit 1,000 words of critical writing that demonstrates your literary critical skills. You may write something specifically for this.
Undergraduate essays and reviews are acceptable.
Suitable applicants will be invited for an interview.
International & EU requirements
English language requirements
All teaching at Royal Holloway (apart from some language courses) is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start of your course.
The scores we require
- IELTS: 7.0 overall. Writing 7.0. No other subscore lower than 5.5.
- Pearson Test of English: 69 overall. Writing 69. No other subscore lower than 51.
- Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE IV.
- Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.
For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please see here.
Your future career
A significant number of our Creative Writing students have become published authors or found work in publishing, the media and agencies.
We have an impressive record for placing graduates in academic jobs.
This course will give you a distinctive, creative edge in careers such as publishing, teaching, writing and journalism, administration and marketing.
Fees, funding & scholarships
Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £9,800
EU and international students tuition fee per year**: £20,000
Other essential costs***: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course.
* and ** These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis. Students studying on the standard part-time course structure over two years are charged 50% of the full-time applicable fee for each study year.
All postgraduate fees are subject to inflationary increases. This means that the overall cost of studying the course via part-time mode is slightly higher than studying it full-time in one year. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information, please see our terms and conditions. Please note that for research courses, we adopt the minimum fee level recommended by the UK Research Councils for the Home tuition fee. Each year, the fee level is adjusted in line with inflation (currently, the measure used is the Treasury GDP deflator). Fees displayed here are therefore subject to change and are usually confirmed in the spring of the year of entry. For more information on the Research Council Indicative Fee please see the RCUK website.
** The UK Government has confirmed that EU nationals are no longer eligible to pay the same fees as UK students, nor be eligible for funding from the Student Loans Company. This means you will be classified as an international student. At Royal Holloway, we wish to support those students affected by this change in status through this transition. For eligible EU students starting their course with us in September 2022, we will award a fee reduction scholarship equivalent to 60% of the difference between the UK and international fee for your course. This will apply for the duration of your course. Find out more
*** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree at Royal Holloway during the 2022/23 academic year, and are included as a guide. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing, have not been included.