MSt in Creative Writing

Course details

Oxford University's Master of Studies in Creative Writing is a two-year, part-time master's degree course offering a unique combination of high contact hours, genre specialization, and critical and creative breadth.

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

The programme offers a clustered learning format of five Residences, two Guided Retreats and one Placement over two years. The research Placement, a distinguishing feature of the course, offers between one and two weeks' hands-on experience of writing in the real world. Students may undertake their placement in a literary agency, a publishing house, the offices of a literary periodical, a theatre company, a screen production company, or other relevant organization. Placement organisations have included Macmillan, the Poetry Society, Initialise Films, Random House, the BBC, the Literary Review, AM Heath, Pegasus Theatre, and Carcanet.

Coronavirus update

The admissions cycle for this programme is progressing as planned, and the University is committed to ensuring that offer holders can take up their place as expected. Information will be made available as the situation develops. Find out more here.

Programme details

Course content

The first year concentrates equally on prose (fiction and narrative non-fiction), poetry and drama. There is a significant critical reading and analysis component, which is linked to the writerly considerations explored in each of the three genres. Students are expected to engage fully with all three genres, in a spirit of exploration and with the aim of discovering what impact and relevance unaccustomed genres have for the development of their individual writerly voice. This necessarily involves undertaking assignments and exercises in areas that are new to students, and do not relate directly to any work they may have in progress. Students may be able to continue with their own longer term pieces-in-progress but the concentration of year 1 teaching is on producing new work, and the exercises and assignments, which should take priority, reflect this emphasis.

The second year offers specialization in a single genre, again accompanied by a significant critical element focused around issues of interest to the individual student and related to the genre of choice.

Your specialization choices are as follows:

  • The novel
  • Short fiction
  • Poetry
  • Radio drama
  • TV drama
  • Screenwriting
  • Stage drama
  • Narrative non-fiction

In year 2, the specialization in the genre of students’ choice provides an opportunity for significant concentration on either new work, or, subject to consultation with supervisor, on existing work-in-progress.

Course brochure for MSt in Creative Writing

How is the course structured?

Course Dates Year 1 (2021-22)

Residence 1: Saturday 25 September to Tuesday 28 September 2021
Residence 2: Friday 21 January to Monday 24 January 2022
Residence 3: Sunday 24 April to Wednesday 27 April 2022
Guided Retreat: Sunday 3 July to Tuesday 5 July 2022

The exact dates of the second year residences have not yet been finalised but will be in early October 2022, and in late March and early July 2023.

How is the course assessed?

Year 1: 

  • 4 x 2500-word assignments, 2 creative writing and 2 critical analysis
  • 1 x 7000-word portfolio of creative writing
  • 1 x 4000-word extended critical essay

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.

Year 2: 

  • 1 x 2500-word report of Research Placement
  • 1 x final creative writing project amounting to:
  • approximately 25,000 words of prose fiction
  • or approximately 25,000 words of narrative non-fiction
  • or a piece or pieces of radio drama totalling approximately 90 minutes’ duration or up to 18,000 words)
  • or stage play of 90 minute’s duration (23,000 – 25,000 words)
  • or TV play of 90 minute’s duration (approx 18,000 words)
  • or screenplay (entire, c. 110 to 120pp; approx 25,000 words)
  • or a collection of poetry of between 40 and 60 pages AND between 600 and 1200 lines

AND

  • 1 x 5000-word extended essay on a genre-related critical approach of own choice

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

Student comments

"The Oxford MSt enables you to fast-track your career in writing."
- Fortuna Burke

"… the freedom to explore and experiment… has been fundamental to my development as a writer."
- Clare Tetley

"The range and variety of the group … offers truly exciting opportunities for the kind of exchanges that really accelerate your development as a writer."
- Michael Schuller

"What does the course offer? Self-discipline, professionalism and confidence."
- Abigail Green-Dove

"My life has been so enriched and expanded. My writing evolves daily through the tools that you gave me. Not to mention the wonderful friendships formed throughout our two years together."
- Lindsay Moore

"The Masters in Oxford, while encouraging creativity, raised the bar on the quality of the finished work and gave me the discipline to be a professional."
- Bette Adriaanse

"I doubt there’s a more suitable MSt in the United Kingdom for work which challenges boundaries and takes risks."
- Jennifer Thorp

 

Awards and successes

Thirteen cohorts of students have so far graduated, and our students have already achieved significant writerly successes.

Fiction

Our fiction writers have achieved high-profile publication, including a Booker Prize shortlisting; a two-book deal with Jonathan Cape; two-book deals with Knopf Random House (USA) and Chicken House (UK and Europe); a major deal with Bloomsbury; a two-book deal with Quercus, and a three book deal with Quercus. Other imprints with which our students and alumni have published include Unnamed Press; Unbound; John Murray; Knopf; Alcemi Press; Cillian Press; Marshall Cavendish; Palimpsest Press; V & A Publishing; HarperCollins India; Riverrun; Harlequin; and Penguin Books India.

Periodicals in which our prose writers have placed work include: Structo, the Mays Anthology, De Revisor, Vestoj, A Joyful Archipelago, Blood Ink Crime Writing Anthology, Litro, The Rumpus, Newsweek, Drum Literary Magazine, Flash: The International Short-short Story Magazine, Carillon Magazine, Skyline 2014 anthology, The Warwick Review, The International Journal of Literature and Aesthetics, Northern Liberties Review, The Irish Literary Review, Annexe Magazine, Cannon’s Mouth Journal and Rock Ink Roll Anthology.

Poetry

Our poets have also published widely with, among others, Eyewear; Gatehouse Press; Templar Press; Dancing Girl Press; Carcanet/Oxford Poets; Red Mountain Press; Poetry Salzburg; Emma Press; Unsolicited Press; Albion Beatnik Press; Bloomsbury; and Southward Press.

Awards received by students and graduates specializing in poetry include the Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation of America, shortlisting for the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize for young poets of unusual promise, the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine, the International Jane Martin Poetry Prize, the Templar Portfolio Award, and shortlisting for the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award. A student was also nominated for the Hennessey Literary Award in the Emerging Poetry category. A current student was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series 2017.

Publications in which our poets have appeared include The Spectator, Poetry Review, Chattahoochee Review Irish Special, Cinnamon Press, Other Poetry, The Moth, Heart Shoots Anthology, Shearsman, Smiths Knoll, Ash Magazine, The Frogmore Papers, Cadaverine, Inkcapture, Catechism, Agenda, Magma. Poetry London, The American Literary Review, Poetry Review, Southword, The Lamp, Ambit, The Lumen, Acumen Literary Journal, Popshot Magazine, The Chicago Review, and Sentinel Literary Quarterly: The Magazine of World Literature.

Drama

Our dramatists have had plays staged in significant theatrical venues, including the Soho Theatre and the Hong Kong Arts Festival. One alumnus has run storytelling workshops for the National Theatre. A 2010 graduate is now an award-winning playwright who has had four stage plays produced and three radio plays recorded. One graduate produced a short film in 2015 which premiered at Raindance in London. One alumnus’ play was performed as part of Theatre503’s Rapid Write Response, and another edited and contributed to a collection of plays by British East Asian playwrights, published by Oberon Books.

Awards our students and alumni have received include the Royal Court’s Alfred Fagon Award for the best play by a writer of African and Caribbean descent, a nomination for a Princess Grace Award for playwriting, Best Play (awarded by Meera Syal) at the Oxford University New Writing Festival, and longlisting for the King`s Cross Award for New Writing. One alumnus was selected as part of the ‘Migration Matters’ Festival for a weeklong residency, while another wrote a film which won ‘corporate gold’ at the Cannes Festival.

Prizes and Shortlistings – Poetry, Prose and Drama

Students and alumni have won a wide range of prizes. These successes include winning the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2017, the Bridport Prize for Poetry, the Gregory O’Donoghue Prize, the Writers’ Village International Short Fiction Award 2014, the Editors Prize from the Poetry Foundation, the Hippocrates Prize, the Parallel Universe Poetry Competition, the Martin Starkie Prize, the Heritage Arts Radio play competition, the Cascade Pictures Writer’s Couch pitching competition, first prize in the Poetry Book Society Student Poetry Competition, and the Yeovil Literary Prize for Poetry. Two alumni have won the Oxford University’s DL Chapman Memorial Prize, and another won the London Fringe Festival’s Short Fiction Award. Alumni have been awarded a Toshiba Studentship, a Hawthornden Fellowship, and funded residencies at the Banff Centre, Canada, and at the Expansionists Project, Whitstable.

Students and alumni have had their work shortlisted across the genres for, among others, the British Library’s Michael Marks Poetry Award, the Sunday Times Short Story Prize, the Costa Award, the Dylan Thomas Prize, Not the Booker Prize, the Sunday Times/EFL short story prize 2017, the Asham Award, the Bridport Prize, the Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction, the Fish Flash Fiction prize, the Oxonian poetry prize, the Fish Short Story Prize, the Big Issue in the North’s New Writing Award, the Oxonian review, the Aesthetica Creative Writing Competition, and the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger award 2011.

The MSt in Creative Writing blog is kept up to date with stories of alumni successes.

Destinations

Many of our graduate students have signed with agents, and each year a number go on to undertake doctoral study in creative writing or English Literature. Our graduates have obtained positions in publishing, media and the creative arts industries, as well as teaching positions in tertiary education.

Who should apply?

We are looking for writers with a proven record of commitment to their craft. 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.

The MSt has enjoyed a very strong application field since its inception, attracting record interest in recent years from a global constituency of writers. The course`s emphasis on critical analysis as well as on writerly and creative excellence attracts students of commensurately strong academic potential as well as of significant creative promise. This combination of academic rigour and creativity is a central distinctive feature of the course. The resulting emphasis on exploration and the development of an individual writerly voice serve to attract particularly talented students from around the world as well as a strongly diverse group of UK students of varied backgrounds and ethnicity.

The high number of contact hours are concentrated into Residences and Retreats. Students should be at a stage in their writing where, with appropriate guidance, they can undertake agreed assignments, projects and essays between meetings. There is a dedicated Course Website for provision of up-to-date information; contact and exchange between students; and contact between students and tutors. The course, however, is not a ‘distance-learning’ course, and tutors, while being happy to help with questions or problems, do not offer regular weekly ‘office hours’.

The programme is similar to MFA (Master of Fine Arts) programmes. It is a creative degree that centres around professional artistic practice for those who wish to build upon, or start, their publishing record. 

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA we normally seek is 3.6 out of 4.0. We do not seek a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT score. Although a GRE or GMAT score is not a formal requirement, if one is available it should be supplied.

The MSt is unlikely to be suitable for those who are just starting out on their writerly and critical development. If you have any doubts about whether the MSt is right for your stage of development, please take a look at our Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing.

FAQ

During a virtual open event in 2011, participants' questions were texted in and answered by the acting Course Director Jane Draycott and course administrator Rebecca Rue. All of these questions and answers are available to read here.

Staff

Course Director: Dr Clare Morgan

Tutor profiles

Blog

The MSt blog is a resource of interviews, events, calls for submission, competitions, news of alumni and tutors, and more.

Fees

Please visit the Creative Writing page on the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions website for details of course fees and costs.

Please visit our sources of funding page for information on student loans, bursaries and external sources of funding.

Scholarships

As a postgraduate student studying on this course at OUDCE you may be able to gain assistance through Career Development Loans or Educational Trusts and Charities. 

The Clarendon Fund

The aim of the Clarendon Fund is to assist the very best students who obtain places to study for postgraduate degrees in the University. The main criterion for the awards is academic ability. 

Apply for this course

Application deadlines

Applications for 2021-22 entry are now open.

Application deadlines are midday (UK time):

  • Friday 22 January 2021 (Latest deadline for most Oxford scholarships)
  • Tuesday 2 March 2021

Applications may remain open after the final deadline if places are still available.

If you have any questions about the progress of your application, please contact the Graduate Admissions Office (tel: 01865 270059; Query facility); or the Course Administrator, Rebecca Rue (tel: +44 (0)1865 280145; email: mstcreativewriting@conted.ox.ac.uk ).

How to apply

For entry requirements, selection criteria and how to apply, please visit the Oxford University Graduate Admissions website.

The University requires online applications. Paper applications are only acceptable in exceptional cases where it is not possible for you to apply online. A paper application form can be requested from the Graduate Admissions Office.

You will need to submit the application form and all supporting materials:

  • Three references
    Note: If you anticipate having difficulty providing three referees who have an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for this Programme of Study, please contact the Programme Administrator for advice.
  • Transcripts of previous higher education results.
  • Current CV/resume
  • A statement (see application form) of your reasons for applying to the course. This should include what you feel the course would offer you and your writing, and what you feel you could bring to the course.
  • A portfolio of creative writing for assessment. This can be in any of the three genres, or in more than one, and should consist of approximately 2000 words of prose (fiction, or narrative non-fiction) or 10 short poems or fifteen minutes equivalent of drama.

Please note that supporting materials cannot be returned. Please also note that no correspondence can be entered into, should your application be unsuccessful.

English Language ability

Prospective students whose first language is not English should note that English language certification at the higher level is required, and any offer of a place will be conditional on the receipt of an original certificate (see the ‘Notes of Guidance’).

IT requirements

This course uses the Department’s online assignment submission system. In order to prepare and submit your course assignments you will need access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification. Students of this course may use the student computing facilities provided in Departmental buildings.

Visas

International applicants from outside the EEA please note that it is not possible to be resident in the UK on the basis of this course. As the MSt is a two-year, part-time course, it does not have the number of teaching hours per week required for a Tier 4 student visa.

Non-EU students must get an appropriate visa to cover their time in England before coming to the UK. Many international students on the course apply for student visitor visas to enable them to come to England for the periods required over the duration of the programme. For information on this please visit the UKCISA website.