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Phd by prior publication creative writing

PhD by prior publication/portfolio

A PhD by prior publication/portfolio will typically take one year. The award allows people who have not followed the traditional academic route towards a PhD to obtain academic recognition for having undertaken and produced research, and developed their research skills and subject knowledge to doctoral level.

This may include people entering higher education in mid-career, especially in practice-based disciplines.

Word length for the PhD thesis varies according to discipline; it will include substantial published work and an introductory section of about 10,000 words. On completion it will be the subject of an oral examination, in which you will show how you have:

  • critically investigated your area of research; and
  • made an independent and original contribution to knowledge.

Students applying to the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing should also read the additional faculty-specific guidance: SEC PhD publication guidelines for PhD by prior publication /portfolio (PDF)

PhD Creative Writing / Overview

We understand that prospective students and offer-holders may have concerns about the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The University is following the advice from Universities UK, Public Health England and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Degree awarded Doctor of Philosophy Duration 3 years [full-time], 6 years [part-time] Entry requirements

  • A Bachelors (Honours) degree at 2:1 level or above (or its international equivalent) in a related subject; and
  • A UK Master’s degree with an overall Distinction classification (or its international equivalent) in a related subject
  • Any strong relevant professional experience will be considered on a case by case basis.

Programme options

Full-time Part-time Full-time distance learning Part-time distance learning

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Programme description

David Hartley, a PhD research student in the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester presents his research as an ‘elevator pitch’.

Our PhD Creative Writing programme gives you the opportunity to work on a significant piece of creative writing while developing your research skills.

You will benefit from creative supervision by an experienced poet or fiction writer and draw on the range of expertise within the University to find a supervisor for your critical element.

There are two elements to the programme. The first is a creative element that can be a novel or a collection of short stories of up to 100,000 words, or a book-length collection of poetry of up to 60 poems.

The PhD also has a critical element, which is a piece of literary or cultural criticism of 30,000 to 50,000 words maximum.

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Find out what it’s like to study at Manchester by visiting us on one of our open days .

For entry in the academic year beginning September 2022, the tuition fees are as follows:

  • PhD (full-time)
    UK students (per annum): £4,596
    International, including EU, students (per annum): £20,500
  • PhD (part-time)
    UK students (per annum): TBA

Further information for EU students can be found on our dedicated EU page.

Please note for the majority of projects where experimentation requires further resource: higher fee bands (where quoted) will be charged rather than the base rate for supervision, administration and computational costs. The fees quoted above will be fully inclusive and, therefore, you will not be required to pay any additional bench fees or administration costs.

All fees for entry will be subject to yearly review and incremental rises per annum are also likely over the duration of the course for UK/EU students (fees are typically fixed for International students, for the course duration at the year of entry). Always contact the department if you are unsure which fee applies to your project.


We offer a limited number of bursaries and studentships on a competitive basis, details of which can be found via the links below.

Please note that while we do not have closing dates for programme applications, all funding competitions have a specified deadline for submitting the funding application form and a separate (earlier) deadline for submitting the online programme application form, both of which will be stated in the funding competition details below.

You may also be eligible for a postgraduate loan from the government. Find out more about this and other sources of funding on the funding opportunities page.

Pre-application guidance for the PhD in Creative Writing

Find out why and how you should apply for our PhD in Creative Writing, including guidance on the creative and critical components of your degree.

How is the Creative Writing PhD structured?

Doctoral degree candidates in Creative Writing spend three years writing a manuscript in consultation with a supervisor.

This manuscript consists of two components:

  1. A creative component that comprises 75% of the final manuscript.
  2. A critical component, which comprises 25% of the final manuscript.

In practical terms this amounts to the following:

  • Candidates in fiction write a creative manuscript (novel or collection of short stories) that should not exceed 75,000 words in length.
  • Candidates in poetry write a collection of poetry that should not exceed 75 pages of poetry.
  • All candidates (fiction writers and poets) must also write an essay that is approximately 20,000- 25,000 words. This is the ‘critical’ component.

What is meant by ‘critical component’?

The critical component of a thesis manuscript in Creative Writing can be where you analyse how a precise, focused theme or a specific element of craft (character, form, voice, etc.) operates in selected published works. Sometimes, this will be a traditional academic or ‘critical’ essay. Other times, this part of a thesis might tackle more craft-driven questions: in what ways does plot operate in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow and how do these ‘operations’ affect readers? How does the use of non-human personae in Louise Glück’s The Wild Iris, Les Murray’s Translations from the Natural World and Edwin Morgan’s poetry reshape reader perceptions?

Alternatively, the critical component may take the form of a critical-reflexive essay, in which you situate your creative project in a critical context. Such an essay is not simply an account of what you did and when you did it; instead, it should be a rigorous and scholarly work that aims for some deeper insight. It is likely to use self-reflection as a means of illuminating the creative process, interrogating the contribution made by your creative writing to a chosen genre and its tradition, and examining how it engages with, and contributes to, wider conceptual or theoretical issues. Examples of critical-reflexive essays can be found in Writing in Practice and Text Journal.

It is not expected that the critical component should constitute an original contribution to knowledge, as would be the case when pursuing a conventional 80,000-word thesis manuscript in literary studies; what is important is that it offers an in-depth analysis of a question that, although explored in part or in whole through the work of other writers, relates to, or grows out of, the creative component of your manuscript, and that the creative and critical components are sufficiently connected for the thesis as a whole to form a coherent body of work.

You have only 20,000 -25,000 words for this essay, so when writing your proposal it is important to be focused and specific.

What form does the application take?

Applicants are asked to supply a sample of either fiction (3,000 – 5,000 words; not exceeding 5,000 words) or poetry (10-15 pages of poetry; not exceeding 15 pages), as well as a shorter sample of academic writing (circa 2,000 words). You’ll also need to supply a summary of your proposed project. This summary should comprise an outline of your creative project as well as detailed discussion of your 20,000 to 25,000-word critical component.

Some questions that your proposal might address could be:

  • What would be the proposed structure of the creative portion of your final manuscript?
  • Which resources would you be using for the critical portion (mention a few critics and/or authors you will be discussing by name or, even better, specific titles)?
  • Is there a single overarching research question that both the creative and the critical work will investigate?
  • Why would Edinburgh be a good place for this project?

Please include a bibliography. The application also asks for a personal statement separate from the proposal. This is where you provide information about your previous experiences and attainments as a creative writer; also give a sense of why you want to do the PhD at Edinburgh.

How long should a proposal be?

There is no official limit or minimum length for a proposal. However, effective proposals tend to be 500-750 words long, excluding the indicative bibliography.

Do I need to find someone to supervise my project before applying?

There is no need to identify a supervisor in advance of your application. Applicants who receive an offer of acceptance are assigned a provisional supervisor, taking into account staff research interests and other factors. However, it’s important to make contact with the team if you’re intending to apply for SGSAH (AHRC) funding.

While you do not need to find a member of staff willing to supervise your project before applying, please do take some time to read over staff profiles, staff research interests, and publications in order to ensure that your project is something we can supervise effectively.

Who can supervise your PhD

The following members of staff supervise PhD students in Creative Writing. Follow the links to find out more about their research interests and expertise.