Literature and creative writing summer schools
Discover Oxford University’s literature and creative writing study holidays in Oxford.
Whether you wish to learn for personal enrichment, academic progression or professional development, we have a summer programme for you.
Live and study at Oxford’s historic colleges or at Rewley House, experience dining in hall, and explore the world famous university city. Residential and non-residential options are available.
*NEW* Critical Reading Summer School
A one-week residential summer course held at New College for those who wish to be a more critical and informed reader, comprising of small-group seminars, daily talks, one-to-one tutorials and more.
*NEW* Write Now! Creative Writing Summer School
Develop your writing skills with this intensive programme of workshops, seminars, individual tutorials, and talks by industry professionals and authors. Held over one week at historic New College.
Oxford University Summer School for Adults (OUSSA)
Offering 60+ week-long undergraduate level accredited courses for adult learners covering a wide range of topics – including literature and creative writing. Spend your mornings studying for credit, with the afternoons spent exploring Oxford’s many sights, colleges and local area. Held at Rewley House in central Oxford.
The Oxford Experience
Held at Christ Church, the 16th century Oxford college built by Cardinal Wolsey. Choose from more than 80 non-assessed week-long courses in a range of subjects including literature and creative writing. Live and dine in college, explore the city and the River Thames and enjoy all that Oxford has to offer. For non-specialists aged 18+.
English Literature Summer School
Examine a variety of significant texts and literary movements from Old English to the present day in this three-week summer school. Live and study at Exeter College, one of Oxford University’s oldest colleges, attend daily lectures given by leading scholars and enjoy a range of social events.
Creative Writing Summer School
A three-week intensive writing retreat held at Exeter College – the environment that nurtured J R R Tolkien, Philip Pullman, Martin Amis and many others. Under the guidance of experienced tutors, you will write, develop your technique, sharpen your critical faculties and discuss your work in small, focused seminars.
Write Now! Creative Writing Summer School
We all have stories to tell, and the right guidance can make those stories compelling. Perhaps words are pouring out of you but you need to structure them. Perhaps you’re bursting with ideas but aren’t sure where to start. Perhaps your life-story, short story, novel, or poem is well underway but you’re not yet confident about editing and polishing. Our experienced, encouraging tutors will help you to find your voice and shape your story.
During this intensive one-week summer school, we invite you to:
- Work with Oxford tutors in small-group workshops and seminars.
- Receive tutor feedback on your writing during an individual 45-minute tutorial.
- Experience the beautiful historic environment of thirteenth-century New College, Oxford.
- Enjoy comfortable, accessible accommodation and teaching rooms with all meals included.
- Attend daily talks by industry professionals and authors.
You have four course options to choose from:
Fiction (limited places remaining)
Young adult and older children’s fiction
Life-writing (limited places remaining)
You will participate in two small-group workshops/seminars each day.
In the seminars, you’ll learn from expert tutors, analysing the employment of literary devices which you can then use in your own work. You will also engage in writing exercises, give and receive peer-review, and have the opportunity to respond to your tutors’ feedback. The aim of the programme is to help you find and develop your own style and voice while adding new techniques to your personal writer’s toolkit.
Your week will comprise:
- 5 hour-long lectures delivered by expert tutors
- 5 x 30-minute Q&A sessions
- 10 small-group seminars
- Optional one-to-one 45 minute tutorial on your own writing
- A walking tour of Oxford
- Opening and closing drinks receptions
- Optional evening social programme
Orientation meeting and welcome champagne reception
Your programme starts on Sunday afternoon with your arrival at New College and a full orientation meeting during which we will provide you with all the information you need to take full advantage of your writing week, college facilities and the city of Oxford.
We then invite you to join us for a champagne reception in the beautiful New College Cloisters, overlooking a green space in which grows the holm oak made famous by the Harry Potter films.
Course outline and structure
Each morning begins with a plenary session in which industry professionals and established authors give a talk.
You will also participate in weekday seminars in two genres of your choice and benefit from an individual tutorial on a piece of your own writing.
Plenty of time for writing in New College’s inspiring environment has been built into the course.
You can find a sample timetable here to see how your week will be structured.
Optional social and informal events
The college bar will be open before and after dinner each day.
We encourage you to mingle and network in a bar quiz night and to showcase your work at an open mic night. You’ll also have a chance to enjoy a guided tour of the historic centre of Oxford, as well as a tour of the world-famous Bodleian Library.
Certificates of attendance will be presented on the Saturday morning before departure.
Closing reception and gala farewell dinner
We invite you to join us for one last glass of champagne in the Cloisters before enjoying a gala farewell dinner in the beautiful surroundings of New College’s dining hall. For this special occasion formal dress is encouraged.
Meals and Morning Refreshments
A self-service buffet style breakfast is provided offering a wide range of hot and cold options.
Tea, coffee and biscuits are served during the morning break.
A two-course self-service lunch is provided in the college dining hall.
A three-course dinner is served in the dining hall.
Situated in its prime location at the very heart of the city, New College is one of the largest, best known and most architecturally striking colleges in Oxford, combining outstanding facilities with spectacular buildings and gardens set against the twelfth-century city wall.
New College was founded in 1379 by William of Wykham, Bishop of Winchester, as ‘the college of St Mary of Winchester in Oxford’, and was the largest college in Oxford at that time. It soon became known as New College to distinguish it from an earlier Oxford college (Oriel) also dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Architecturally, New College was innovative in its enclosed quadrangle – the first of its type, which has since become one of the defining features of colleges across Oxford and Cambridge. Around the quadrangle are the cloisters, dining hall, chapel, student accommodation and the beautiful gardens and grounds, which you are free to explore.
The cloisters, hall, chapel and gardens are fully accessible, access to the hall is provided via a lift, and teaching and bed/study rooms are either ground-floor or easily accessed by lift.
Staying at New College
Participants will be provided with a single en-suite study bedroom, with their own private toilet and shower. All guests are provided with towels in their room, a welcome toiletry pack, a mini fridge and basic tea and coffee making facilities.
All rooms are used for students during term-time, and so all feature a desk and a wardrobe. Please note that hairdryers and international plug adaptors are not provided.
There are a limited number of double en-suite and fully accessible rooms, with room to accommodate carers.
Laundry facilities (washing machines, dryers, irons) are available within the College for student use. Washers and dryers are pay-as-you-go, but irons and ironing boards are available free of charge.
We regret that participants cannot be accommodated at New College either prior to or beyond their programme dates. Family members and/or friends who are not enrolled on this programme cannot be accommodated in college.
|Accommodation and meals||£300.00|
The fee of £2000.00 for the course include all tuition, accommodation, meals on a full board basis, tea and coffee between sessions and the full social programme.
Once you have submitted your application form, you will be offered a place on the course and sent an invoice for the course fee. You have multiple options for payment, including full payment online by credit/debit card or via bank transfer within 30 days of the invoice date.
Cancellations and refunds
Participants who wish to cancel must inform the Programme Administrator by emailing [email protected]
Please be aware that all payments (and refunds) are subject to exchange rates at the time of processing.
Dr Emma Darwin
Tutor, Life-Writing (Biography, autobiography and memoir)
Emma Darwin’s debut novel, The Mathematics of Love is probably the only novel to have been simultaneously listed for the Commonwealth Writers’ Best First Book, and the Romantic Novelist’s Association Book of the Year. The Times called it ‘That rare thing, a book that works on every level. An commonly good read… Remarkable’. The Daily Express found it to be: ‘An addictive, engaging foray into historical fiction that leaves the reader believing in the art of perspective and the redemptive power of love.’ Emma’s second novel, A Secret Alchemy reached the Sunday Times bestsellers list, and was named as one of The Times Top 50 Paperbacks of 2009. Reviewers found it ‘Intensely atmospheric… adds up to a spellbinding whole’, The Times. Powerful and utterly convincing.’ Daily Mail.
Emma’s first non-fiction work, Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction was published by John Murray Learning 2016 as part of the famous Teach Yourself imprint. Her latest work, This is Not a Book About Charles Darwin, was published by Holland House Books on Darwin Day, 12th February 2019. Emma was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing by Goldsmiths in 2010.
‘In this witty memoir. Darwin uses her quandary to take us on a fascinating journey through the writing process. Ultimately what she sets before us is a masterclass in how writers have to learn to fail and fail again.’ Mail on Sunday
‘She is unsparingly honest about her battles with self-doubt, her struggle to establish a separate identity as a writer, the difficulties of earning a living and the sheer hard graft of writing… The book’s reflections on the rewards, pitfalls and craft of writing will prove to be a wise, witty and informative guide for aspiring writers.’ The Literary Review
‘Emma Darwin is a rare thing – a gifted writer and a talented, intuitive teacher who is able to dig into technical subtleties and the horrifying mess of the first draft with wit, confidence and respect.’ Professor Jenn Ashworth
Tutor, Writing fiction for young adults and older children
Julie Hearn wrote her first novel at the age of eight, about a psychedelic dragon who longed to be plain green or brown. Her teacher didn’t have time to read the story and Julie vowed never to write anything that ambitious again! Julie went on to become a journalist. She wrote for a daily newspaper in Australia, then lived in Spain for a while, before returning to England and working as a features editor and’ columnist. In 1994, Julie started a degree in Education, but switched to English after suffering a panic attack while attempting to teach maths to year six. She then went on to complete an MSt in Women’s Studies at the University of Oxford (it amuses her to know that, aged thirty she was writing a ‘mother and baby’ column for The Daily Star and, aged 40, was doing academic research into witchcraft and maternal power in Early Modern England). An idea for her Masters thesis became her inspiration for her first novel, Follow Me Down. She is the author of six further works of young adult fiction: The Merrybegot (published in the US as The Minister’s Daughter), Ivy, Hazel, Rowan the Strange (shortlisted for The CILIP Carnegie Medal, Wreckers, and Dance of the Dark Heart. A novel for younger children, I am Not Adorable, about a guide-dog puppy in training, was inspired by Julie’s own experience of sight-loss and her collection of linked short stories, The Princess Thing, is in the pipeline.
‘Nothing short of extraordinary.’. The Guardian
‘Hearn has the skill of a conjurer.’ The Sunday Times
Dr Jenny Lewis
Tutor, Writing poetry
Jenny Lewis is a poet, playwright, songwriter and translator who teaches poetry at the University of Oxford. Seven of her plays and poetry cycles have been performed at major UK theatres, including the Leicester Haymarket, the Royal Festival Hall, the Polka Theatre, London (for children) and Pegasus Theatre, Oxford where Jenny was a Core Writing Tutor for 20 years. Her first book of poetry, When I Became an Amazon (Iron Press, 1996) was broadcast on BBC Woman’s Hour, translated into Russian, made into an opera and first performed by the Tchaikovsky Opera and Ballet Company of Perm, Russia in 2017. Jenny has published three further collections: Fathom, Taking Mesopotamia and Gilgamesh Retold, which was a New Statesman Book of the Year, a Carcanet Book of the Year and a London Review of Books Bookshop Book of the Week. Jenny has also published three chapbooks from Mulfran Press in English and Arabic with the exiled Iraqi poet Adnan Al-Sayegh – Now as Then: Mesopotamia-Iraq, Singing for Inanna and The Flood, which are part of the award-winning, Arts Council-funded ‘Writing Mesopotamia’ project aimed at fostering friendship between English and Arabic-speaking communities, and a translation, with Ruba Abughaida and others.
‘Gilgamesh Retold is innovative, graceful, erudite and utterly unputdownable.’ Gavin Francis, New Statesman
‘Gilgamesh Retold is essential reading, not only for her magisterial synthesis of ancient myth, but for her impressive variety of metrical forms which in itself mirrors the evolution of literary traditions from the Dark Ages to the post-modern’. David Cooke, London Grip‘
‘A vivid, even cinematic translation. Lewis’s approach… gives her license to make room for the feminine. Lewis recalls those matriarchal goddesses of early religions who are now so frequently forgotten – or redacted.’ Hetta Howes, Times Literary Supplement
Ms Susannah Rickards Cherry
Tutor, Writing Fiction
Susannah Rickards read English at Oxford. The first story she wrote was shortlisted for the Ian St James Awards, and since then her short fiction and poetry have been published in anthologies and magazines including The Yellow Room, The New Writer, Diamond Twig’s Even the Ants Have Names anthology of North East writers, Limehouse Books’ anthology of London stories, 33:East, and Cooked Up, and have been broadcast on radio and online in the UK, USA, Canada and on BBC World Service. In 2020, her short fiction won the HG Wells prize, was shortlisted for the Bridport prize, was anthologised in Vision and Gramary, appeared in The Forge online and in Short Éditions short story dispensing machines on the Paris Metro and London Underground. Other awards for Susannah’s work include the Eastside Bursary, the Conan Doyle, The Scott Prize and the Commonwealth Broadcasting Short Story Prize. She was shortlisted for the Society of Authors’ Olive Cooke Award and BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines. Her collection of short stories, Hot Kitchen Snow, is published by Salt.
‘This book will entertain, provoke, shock and surprise you in all the ways a great short story collection should.’ Tania Hershman
Excellent, cleanly done and full of sharp observations.’ Good Reads
‘Rickards subverts the epiphany. Massively worth reading.’ Sheenagh Pugh
‘Beautiful, funny and sweet tales. Rickards does a great job in writing contemporary stories on a variety of themes that span age, race and cultures.’ Chasing Bawa
All sections should be completed fully, clearly and in BLOCK CAPITALS.
Applications should be emailed to the Programme Administrator at the following address:
If you are having issues using Microsoft Word, you can find a .PDF version of the application form here that you can complete and scan.
Subject to the availability of places, the closing date for applications is 10 June 2022.
Applicants will normally be offered a place by email within 14 days of the application being received. Applicants who are offered a place must respond within 14 days to accept or decline the offer.
Participants with a disability or mobility impairment
The aim of the Department is to treat all participants equally and welcomes applications from people with disabilities. Individuals` needs are taken into account as far as possible, providing reasonable adaptations and assistance within the resources available. We ask that people let us know of any disability or special need (confidentially if required) so that we can help them participate as fully as possible.
When applying for the Department’s college-based summer programmes, prospective participants with mobility difficulties or visual or hearing impairments may want to make preliminary enquiries to the Programme Administrator, as the age and layout of these colleges often makes them user-unfriendly (although adaptations are often possible). Oxford, as an ancient city, tends to be difficult to navigate for people with disabilities. The number of very old buildings, designed in an age less sensitive to issues of disability, makes access to much of the city centre difficult. However, the Department will do as much as it can to make study with us possible.
Participants should contact us if they will have problems gaining access to a bedroom located on upper or basement floors. Some double rooms are available, as are adjacent rooms for helpers.
Courses in creative writing
Need an extra push to finish your novel, poem or play? Want to explore new genres? Whether you’re a beginner wondering where to start, or an experienced writer looking to extend your craft, we have a part-time, flexible course for you.
Our short courses in creative writing include in person and online live-time weekly classes, day and weekend schools and flexible online courses.
Courses cover all genres: fiction, poetry, memoir, creative nonfiction, drama, writing for young adults and critical reading. There are courses for beginners and options for those with experience. Class sizes are kept small to maximise interaction between you, your classmates and your tutor.
Credit earned from some of these courses is transferable towards our Certificate of Higher Education – a part-time undergraduate course in which you study a main subject discipline, but also undertake study in other academic subjects.
Undergraduate award programmes
Our part-time undergraduate programmes are delivered in two formats: you can choose to study mostly online (with one short module taken in Oxford) or you can opt for face-to-face teaching.
- The Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing is a two-year part-time course that helps you to strengthen your ability in four major areas of literary activity — prose, poetry, drama and analytical reading — while letting you specialise in the genre of your choice.
- The Certificate of Higher Education lets you study a main subject discipline (such as creative writing) while also undertaking study in other academic subjects. Ideal for lifelong learners: the credits you obtain from taking short online courses, weekly classes and attendance at the Oxford University Summer School for Adults all count towards your final award.
Delve deeper into creative writing with our MSt in Creative Writing – a two-year, part-time master’s programme offering a unique combination of high contact hours, genre specialization, and critical and creative breadth, delivered in a clustered learning format of five residences, two guided retreats and one placement over two years.
Join us for one of our Oxford creative writing summer courses, and spend a week or longer immersed in your craft. Accredited and non-accredited options are available; courses take place at Rewley House and at Oxford’s historic colleges.