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Oxford university creative writing masters

Creative Writing

Start expanding your powers of expression and enhance your craft as a writer. On this course, you’ll grow as an artist, harnessing your writing, imagining and thinking – in a collaborative and supportive space.

Your time on this course will be a decisive stage in the development of your writing. You’ll start writing immediately. And you’ll share your work with your peer group and tutors. You’ll receive insightful, sometimes challenging, but always supportive feedback on all your work. This will help you progress.

You’ll be taught by a permanent staff of highly acclaimed, successful writers published by leading publishers in the UK, Europe and USA. And you’ll work with our Creative Writing Fellows and visiting lecturers, including Patience Agbabi, Sally Bayley and Steven Hall, as you develop your major project.

You’ll have the opportunity to meet literary agents from top agency Felicity Bryan Associates, and to pitch your work to leading publisher Philip Gwyn Jones.

How to apply

Entry requirements

Specific entry requirements

Applicants should normally hold a good honours degree (2.1 or above), or equivalent, in an appropriate discipline and must be able to demonstrate ability in creative writing.

A portfolio of recent creative work must be submitted consisting of 2000 words prose, or 5 poems, or a proportionate mixture of the two. Applicants may also be interviewed. If it is some time since you completed your undergraduate education and you do not meet the standard requirement, it may be possible to consider your application based on evidence of other relevant personal and professional experience, the support of your referees and your portfolio of written work.

Please also see the University’s general entry requirements.

English language requirements

Applicants whose first language is not English should hold one of the following qualifications:

  • British Council (IELTS) Test: band 7 overall with at least 6 in each band
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency: grade C or above
  • NEAB University Test in English for Speakers of Other Languages: Pass
  • JMB Test in English for Overseas Students: grade 1, 2 or 3.
International qualifications and equivalences
English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the University’s requirements. Find out more about English language requirements.

Pathways courses for international and EU students

We offer a range of courses to help you meet the entry requirements for your postgraduate course and also familiarise you with university life in the UK.

Take a Pre-Master’s course to develop your subject knowledge, study skills and academic language level in preparation for your master’s course.

If you need to improve your English language, we offer pre-sessional English language courses to help you meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s course.

Terms and Conditions of Enrolment

When you accept our offer, you agree to the Terms and Conditions of Enrolment. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

Application process

All applications for the MA in Creative Writing must be accompanied by a portfolio of recent creative work.

This must consist of 2000 words prose, or 5 poems, or a proportionate mixture of the two.

Tuition fees

Questions about fees?

Contact Student Finance on:

Tuition fees

Questions about fees?

Contact Student Finance on:

+44 (0)1865 483088

Fees quoted are for the first year only. If you are studying a course that lasts longer than one year your fees will increase each year.

Financial support and scholarships

There’s International Student Scholarships available for 2022 and other scholarships and funding options for postgraduate international students.

Additional costs

Please be aware that some courses will involve some additional costs that are not covered by your fees. Specific additional costs for this course, if any, are detailed below.

The published course and module descriptions were accurate when first published and remain the basis of the course, but the University has had to modify some course and module content in response to government restrictions and social distancing requirements. In the event of changes made to the government advice and social distancing rules by national or local government, the University may need to make further alterations to the published course content. Detailed information on the changes will be sent to every student on confirmation in August to ensure you have all the information before you come to Oxford Brookes.

Learning and assessment

On this course, you’ll have the structure and space to express yourself creatively, while developing your voice. You’ll explore different writing styles, and learn how to engage your readers.

You’ll develop your understanding of a range of literary forms and genres. And if your writing ambitions are towards publication, or just becoming a better writer, you’ll be supported and encouraged all the way to achieve your full potential.

You’ll also write, read and critique your work in small, self-directed study groups, where constructively critical practice and discussion will hone your abilities in drafting and editing.

While learning from published and practising creative writers, you’ll study in one of the world’s most literary cities. You can write in the place used as Hogwarts library in the Harry Potter films. Or sit in the very garden where His Dark Materials ends so heartbreakingly, or discover the haunts of Dorothy L Sayers and Tolkien. You’ll also be able enjoy the many live, year-round book events that make Oxford a vibrant literary city for many contemporary writers today.

Study modules

The modules listed below are for the master’s award.

All students take the core compulsory module The Writing Studio. In addition:

MSt in Creative Writing

The MSt in Creative Writing is a two-year, part-time master’s degree course offering a unique combination of high contact hours, genre specialisation, and critical and creative breadth.

The emphasis of the course is cross-cultural and cross-genre, pointing up the needs and challenges of the contemporary writer who produces their creative work in the context of a global writerly and critical community.

The MSt offers a clustered learning format of five residences, two guided retreats and one research placement over two years. The research placement, a distinguishing feature of the course, provides between one and two weeks’ in-house experience of writing in the real world.

The first year concentrates equally on prose fiction, poetry, dramatic writing and narrative non-fiction. There is a significant critical reading and analysis component, which is linked to the writerly considerations explored in each of the genres. In your second year you will specialise in one of the following:

  • the novel
  • short fiction
  • radio drama
  • TV drama
  • screenwriting
  • stage drama
  • poetry
  • narrative non-fiction.

The residences in particular offer an intensive workshop- and seminar-based forum for ideas exchange and for the opening up of creative and critical frameworks within which to develop writerly and analytical skills. There is a strong element of one-to-one tutorial teaching. Tutorials take place within residences and retreats, and relate to the on-going work produced for the course.

You will be assigned a supervisor who will work closely with you throughout the development of the year two final project and extended essay. All assessed work throughout the two years of the course is subject to one-to-one feedback and discussion with a tutor. This intensive, one-to-one input, combined with the highly interactive workshop and seminar sessions, is a distinguishing feature of the course.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Department for Continuing Education and this role will usually be performed by the Course Director.

You will be allocated a supervisor to guide and advise you on your creative and critical work throughout the second year.

It is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department for Continuing Education.

Assessment

The MSt is assessed by coursework. In the first year, four assignments (two creative, two critical), one creative writing portfolio and one critical essay are submitted. Work is set during each residence and handed in for assessment before the next meeting. Feedback on work submitted is given during tutorials within the residence or retreat. In the second year, submissions comprise one research placement report, one extended critical essay, and a final project – a substantial body of creative work in the genre of choice.

You will be set specific creative and critical work to be completed between residences and handed in to set deadlines. Creative submissions in the first year must be in more than one genre. In the second year, submitted work focuses around the genre of your choice.

Graduate destinations

Graduate destinations have included doctoral programmes in creative writing; teaching creative writing; publishing creative work in chosen field; careers in arts/media.

Changes to this course and your supervision

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you’re thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

All graduate courses in the humanities offered by this department

Entry requirements for entry in 2022-23

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a first-class or upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in a related field.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA normally sought is 3.6 out of 4.0.

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
  • Assessors are looking for writers with a proven record of commitment to their craft, whose work demonstrates significant creative promise. You should be a keen reader, and bring an open-minded, questioning approach to both reading and writing. You will not necessarily have yet achieved publication, but you will have written regularly and read widely over a sustained period. You will be keen to dedicate time and energy and staying-power to harnessing your talent, enlarging your skills, and aiming your writerly production at consistently professional standards. It is likely you will have a first degree, or equivalent, although in some cases other evidence of suitability may be acceptable.
  • Applicants do not need to be previously published, but the MSt is unlikely to be suitable for those who are just starting out on their writerly and critical development.
English language proficiency

This course requires proficiency in English at the University’s higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University’s higher level are detailed in the table below.

TOEFL iBT, including the ‘Home Edition’

(Institution code: 0490)

*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
† Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.

Declaring extenuating circumstances

If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See ‘How to apply’ for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.

For those applying by the January deadline, interviews are generally held in February and March. For March applicants, interviews are generally held in March and April.

The decision to call an applicant for interview is based on the University Admission Board’s assessment of your portfolio, statement of purpose, academic and professional track record and references. Interviews will be conducted in person or by telephone. All applicants whose paper submissions indicate they are qualified for entry will generally be interviewed, either in person or by telephone/Skype. There are always two interviewers. Interviews usually last up to approximately 30 minutes and provide an opportunity for the candidate to discuss his/her application and to explore the course in more detail.

The interview is designed to ascertain, through a range of questions, the shape and emphasis of the candidate’s writing and reading, and general suitability for the demands of the MSt.

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. The After you apply section of this website provides further information about the academic assessment of your application, including the potential outcomes. Please note that any offer of a place may be subject to academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions may vary depending upon your individual academic circumstances.

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:

  • Socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot on selection procedures and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
  • Country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
  • Protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer letter will give full details of your offer and any academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will be required to meet the following requirements:

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Resources

The department is committed to supporting you to pursue your academic goals.

The Rewley House Continuing Education Library, one of the Bodleian Libraries, is situated in Rewley House. The department aims to support the wide variety of subjects covered by departmental courses at many academic levels. The department also has a collection of around 73,000 books together with periodicals. PCs in the library give access to the internet and the full range of electronic resources subscribed to by the University of Oxford. Wifi is also available. The Jessop Reading Room adjoining the library is available for study. You will have access to the Central Bodleian and other Bodleian Libraries.

The Graduate School provides a stimulating and enriching learning and research environment for the department’s graduate students, fostering intellectual and social interaction between graduates of different disciplines and professions from the UK and around the globe. The Graduate School will help you make the most of the wealth of resources and opportunities available, paying particular regard to the support and guidance needed if you are following a part-time graduate programme. The department’s graduate community comprises over 600 members following taught programmes and more than 70 undertaking doctoral research.

The department provides various IT facilities, including the Student Computing Facility which provides individual PCs for your use. Many of the department’s courses are delivered through blended learning or have a website to support face-to-face study. In most cases, online support is delivered through a virtual learning environment.

Depending on the programme you are taking with the department, you may require accommodation at some point in your student career. Rewley House is ideally located in central Oxford; the city’s historic sites, colleges, museums, shops and restaurants are only a few minutes’ walk away. The department has 35 en-suite study bedrooms, all with high quality amenities, including internet access.

The Rewley House dining room has seating for up to 132 people. A full meal service is available daily. The department operates a Common Room with bar for students.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2022-23. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.

Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:

Select from the list:

Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the department’s website.

Will a master’s in creative writing get you a book deal?

I signed with my literary agent three days before I started the two-year master of studies in creative writing at Oxford, and I signed a two-book contract with Quercus three days before the second year of the course began. Some people, however, assume that my book deal was wholly the result of the course.

At first, I relished being an undeserved poster boy for creative writing courses. My publishing contract – like all book deals coming the way of students enrolled in or fresh off a programmes – was a slap in the faces of those who said creative writing courses were a farce, factories where writers who have never been published teach writers who will never get published. Then the emails started pouring in.

They came from far and near: from north-eastern India, where home is for me; from Nepal, where my mother comes from; and from the US, where I spent many years. In each congratulatory message, well-wishers asked whether they should pursue a master’s. When I asked them how they hoped to pay for their degrees many people, especially those from America and the UK, said they would finance their studies with student loans.

As an overseas student at Oxford, I must have spent more than £30,000. This, I understand, is about half of what most students on American creative writing programmes fork out and double what my EU counterparts at Oxford paid. What, exactly, was I supposed to tell people who thought they might take out a loan to pay for their studies?

Should I tell them about the student two years ahead of me who found an agent through the end-of-the-year readings and went on to publish a fantastic book with a well-respected publishing house? Should I talk about how one of the stories in The Gurkha’s Daughter stemmed from a class exercise I wrote for a bestselling author? Should I describe the pathetic excitement that gripped many students when a lone tutor said he didn’t mind receiving work from us even after we graduated? Or should I inform prospective students about the banal feedback process, during which platitudes such as “I don’t usually get poetry, but this I totally loved” were bandied about? (Yes, the comment came from me, and it was 100% insincere.)

Maybe I could tell these hopeful writers about my early days on the course, when people said a collection of short stories wouldn’t be picked by a publisher because … it wasn’t a novel. Or how some tutors were extremely knowledgeable about the British publishing scene but less so about international publishing. To expect them to know the American, Asian and Australian markets was perhaps hoping for too much, but when you pay huge sums for a course, your expectations rise; you become extra-sensitive about some tutor not attending your reading, or not even knowing your name.

I don’t believe writing can be taught, and I think people who design creative writing programmes agree with me. Such courses, however, are predicated on the idea that writing can be finessed with the help of the right tutors, the right peers and the right atmosphere. Did that hold true for me?

In a way it did. I joined the Oxford programme because I had nothing to do; I had quit my job and was halfway through a rough collection of short stories. I was tired of people asking me well-meaning questions such as “What are you doing?”. Also, I come from a country where advanced degrees, no matter how frivolous, give people multiple orgasms, so a master’s it was going to be. I wasn’t about to spend three semesters studying postmodernism, so I looked at courses at places like Columbia and the University of Iowa. The latter was in the middle of nowhere, Columbia was formidably expensive, and a few other places I was considering met daily. (Going to class every day was unappealing.) Oxford’s retreat- and residence-focused schedule suited my needs. We had two to three months between every block of classes to read and write – this was when I completed a large chunk of my second book – and then we would meet from 8am to 8pm every day for three or four days.

I dabbled with poetry and screenwriting – two genres I’d have avoided were it not for the course. To get my money’s worth, I decided to write a screenplay for my final-year project. For assignments, I submitted my most experimental pieces. I brought in the weakest stories to be workshopped, reasoning that if I was spending so much money I might as well take to the course what I would be embarrassed to workshop elsewhere. Weighing the worth of every assignment, every reading and every tutorial against how much money you’re shelling out is a common practice among students of creative writing.

I found two people on the course with whom I shall probably exchange work all my life, I published my first poem, and I have in my possession a puerile screenplay of which I am equally proud and ashamed. All wonderful things, yes, but not worth £30,000 of debt. (Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about interest rates, job placements and how to pay off my loans – a combination of savings and investments helped fund my education, as did the wonderful club that is the Oxford University Poker Society.)

I usually advise people to enrol in creative writing courses if they have the cash and the time. But to take out a loan to finance your studies? Considering the current publishing landscape – where a mid five-figure advance is considered a big deal – should give you an idea of where you might, if you’re lucky, find yourself as a graduate. That is, of course, if things work out. If they don’t, you could always teach.

Prajwal Parajuly is the author of The Gurkha’s Daughter (Quercus). Land Where I Flee, his novel, is scheduled for publication in January 2014.