Creative Writing (MA)

Applications for this course will open in September

The MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck is taught by one of the most diverse and vibrant departments in London. For 16 years we have been enabling dynamic groups of students to improve their creative work and develop as writers. We have a growing list of published and prizewinning authors whose work started life in our seminars.

If you have been writing creatively for a while and feel the need for professional support and feedback and the guidance of published authors and a cohort of like-minded people, then this course is for you.

The course is taught through small seminars and one-to-one tuition. We offer modules in fiction writing - both short story and novel - and work with writers across many prose genres - both fiction and non-fiction. We also offer options in playwriting, poetry, screenwriting and creative non-fiction, and practical opportunities to learn about publishing, producing and editing creative work. 

Entry to the course is based on the submission of a portfolio of creative work, and candidates whose work shows promise will be invited for interview.

Read the Department of English and Humanities blog to keep up to date with our research activities.

Highlights

  • Arts and humanities courses at Birkbeck are ranked fourth best in London and 18th in the UK in the Times Higher Education 2017-2018 World University Subject Rankings.
  • In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), English Language and Literature at Birkbeck achieved 100% for a research environment conducive to producing research of the highest quality, while 91% of eligible staff submitted research, of which 75% was recognised as world-leading or internationally excellent.
  • In particular, this environment is fostered by close links between the MA and the Centre for Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck, which runs a wide variety of talks and conferences in this field. In addition to working with the established and award-winning writers who teach the degree, you will have contact with industry professionals, such as publishers and literary agents, who offer a series of platform discussions in the summer term.
  • Our annual creative writing magazine, The Mechanics' Institute Review, is edited by Birkbeck MA Creative Writing students and features writing from the course as a showcase for the degree, with wide distribution beyond Birkbeck to literary agents, publishers, etc. Read an account of how our students created the most recent issue. MIROnline is an interactive website, edited by PhD students and volunteers, with all the latest news and writing from this programme and beyond.
  • Birkbeck is located in the heart of literary London, in Bloomsbury, WC1. You could be studying in a building that was once home to Virginia Woolf and frequented by members of the Bloomsbury Group, now home to our School of Arts. The building houses our own creative hub which includes the Peltz Gallery, the Gordon Square Cinema and a theatre and performance space.
  • We have a range of scholarships available to enable talented students on low incomes to study with us. Most recently the Aitken Alexander Associates Scholarship,  the Kit de Waal Scholarship and the Sophie Warne Fellowship. Once you have secured a place on the course you will be invited to apply for these awards. The School of Arts offers a number of bursaries for postgraduate students.

Course structure

The programme includes seminars and workshops in fiction and also seminars in contemporary literature.

You take two core modules, choose one contemporary literature core module and choose one option module from a selection. You can also select your spring term option from any of those offered by the other MA programmes in the Department of English and Humanities.

You also complete a dissertation of 15,000 words.

To find out more, read our programme handbook.

Module groups

  • Entry Requirements

    Entry requirements

    A good honours degree (this requirement may be waived if you can demonstrate exceptional talent).

    A portfolio of writing of around 5000 words and a personal statement (to be submitted with your application form). Students are selected on the basis of their portfolio and statement, an interview (selected candidates only) and their degree.

    International entry requirements

    If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, the requirement for this programme is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 7.0, with not less than 6.5 in each of the sub-tests.

    If you don't meet the minimum IELTS requirement, we offer pre-sessional English courses, foundation programmes and language support services to help you improve your English language skills and get your place at Birkbeck.

    Visit the International section of our website to find out more about our English language entry requirements and relevant requirements by country.

    Visa requirements

    If you are not from the European Economic Area (EEA) and/or Switzerland and you are coming to study in the UK, you may need to apply for a visa.

    The visa you apply for varies according to the length of your course:

    • Courses of more than six months’ duration.
    • Courses of less than six months’ duration.
    • Pre-sessional English language courses.

    International students who require a Tier 4 visa should apply for our three-year evening study BA/BSc/LLB degrees, as these are classified as full-time study and qualify for student visa status. If you are living in the UK on a Tier 4 visa, you will not be eligible to enrol as a student on Birkbeck’s part-time evening study degrees.

    For full information, read our visa information for international students page.

    Credits and Accredited Prior Learning (APL)

    If you have studied at university previously, you may have accumulated credits through the modules you studied. It may be possible to transfer these credits from your previous study to Birkbeck or another institution. You should discuss this with the Programme Director when you are making your application.

    Find out more about credits and Accredited Prior Learning (APL).

  • Fees

    Fees

    Part-time home/EU students: £4075 pa
    Full-time home/EU students: £8175 pa
    Part-time international students: £7425 pa
    Full-time international students: £14850 pa

    Students are charged a tuition fee in each year of their programme. Tuition fees for students continuing on their programme in following years may be subject to annual inflationary increases. For more information, please see the College Fees Policy.

  • Teaching and assessment

    Teaching

    At Birkbeck, almost all of our courses are taught in the evening and our teaching is designed to support students who are juggling evening study with work and other daytime commitments. We actively encourage innovative and engaging ways of teaching, to ensure our students have the best learning experience. In the 2017 Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the government’s system for rating university teaching, Birkbeck was allocated a Silver award.

    Teaching may include formal lectures, seminars, and practical classes and tutorials. Formal lectures are used in most degree programmes to give an overview of a particular field of study. They aim to provide the stimulus and the starting point for deeper exploration of the subject during your own personal reading. Seminars give you the chance to explore a specific aspect of your subject in depth and to discuss and exchange ideas with fellow students. They typically require preparatory study.

    Our distance-learning and blended-learning courses and modules are self-directed and we will provide you with interactive learning opportunities and encourage you to collaborate and engage via various learning technologies. These courses involve limited or no face-to-face contact between students and module tutors.

    In addition, you will have access to pastoral support via a named Personal Tutor.

    Methods of teaching on this course

    Teaching is seminar-based. Each session is generally two hours, and there are further regular one-to-one tutorials throughout the year.

    You will taught by successful, published authors and practitioners, including:

    Contact hours

    On our taught courses, you will have scheduled teaching and study sessions each year. Alongside this, you will also undertake assessment activities and independent learning outside of class. Depending on the modules you take, you may also have additional scheduled academic activities, such as tutorials, dissertation supervision, practical classes, visits and fieldtrips.

    On our taught courses, the actual amount of time you spend in the classroom and in contact with your lecturers will depend on your course, the option modules you select and when you undertake your final-year project.

    On our distance-learning and blended-learning courses, discussion, collaboration and interaction with your lecturers and fellow students are encouraged and enabled through various learning technologies, but you may have limited or no face-to-face contact with your module tutors.

    Timetables

    Timetables are usually available from September onwards and you can access your personalised timetable via your My Birkbeck Profile online (if you have been invited to enrol).

    Indicative class size

    Class sizes vary, depending on your course, the module you are undertaking, and the method of teaching. For example, lectures are presented to larger groups, whereas seminars usually consist of small, interactive groups led by a tutor.

    Independent learning

    On our taught courses, much of your time outside of class will be spent on self-directed, independent learning, including preparing for classes and following up afterwards. This will usually include, but is not limited to, reading books and journal articles, undertaking research, working on coursework and assignments, and preparing for presentations and assessments.

    Independent learning is absolutely vital to your success as a student. Everyone is different, and the study time required varies topic by topic, but, as a guide, expect to schedule up to five hours of self-study for each hour of teaching.

    On our distance-learning and blended-learning courses, the emphasis is very much on independent, self-directed learning and you will be expected to manage your own learning, with the support of your module tutors and various learning technologies.

    Study skills and additional support

    Birkbeck offers study and learning support to undergraduate and postgraduate students to help them succeed. Our Learning Development Service can help you in the following areas:

    • academic skills (including planning your workload, research, writing, exam preparation and writing a dissertation)
    • written English (including structure, punctuation and grammar)
    • numerical skills (basic mathematics and statistics).

    Our Disability and Dyslexia Service can support you if you have additional learning needs resulting from a disability or from dyslexia.

    Our Counselling Service can support you if you are struggling with emotional or psychological difficulties during your studies.

    Our Mental Health Advisory Service can support you if you are experiencing short- or long-term mental health difficulties during your studies.

    Assessment

    Assessment is an integral part of your university studies and usually consists of a combination of coursework and examinations, although this will vary from course to course - on some of our courses, assessment is entirely by coursework. The methods of assessment on this course are specified below under 'Methods of assessment on this course'. You will need to allow time to complete coursework and prepare for exams.

    Where a course has unseen written examinations, these may be held termly, but, on the majority of our courses, exams are usually taken in the Summer term, during May to June. Exams may be held at other times of the year as well. In most cases, exams are held during the day on a weekday - if you have daytime commitments, you will need to make arrangements for daytime attendance - but some exams are held in the evening. Exam timetables are published online.

    Find out more about assessment at Birkbeck, including guidance on assessment, feedback and our assessment offences policy.

    Methods of assessment on this course

    Four short creative pieces with critical essays (67%). A dissertation (15,000 words) in one of the following genres: a novella, novel or collection of short stories, with a preface of 3000 words (33%).

  • Careers and employability

    Careers and employability

    Birkbeck Creative Writing graduates include:

    • Niki Aguirre
    • Sarah Alexander
    • Laura Allsop
    • Amer Anwar
    • Iphgenia Baal
    • Amy Bird
    • Phoebe Blatton
    • JJ Bola
    • Mary Lynn Bracht
    • Nicole Burstein
    • Tray Butler
    • Melissa De Villiers
    • Lily Dunn
    • Liz Fremantle
    • AJ Grainger
    • Jules Grant
    • Julia Gray
    • Emma Henderson
    • Sally Hinchcliffe
    • Anna Hope
    • Heidi James
    • Keith Jarrett
    • Olya Knezevic
    • Nik Korpon
    • Louise Lee
    • Matthew Loukes
    • Fiona Melrose
    • Suzanne O'Sullivan
    • Nii Parkes
    • Helen Pike
    • Victoria Richards
    • Nadim Safdar
    • Karin Salvalaggio
    • David Savill
    • Stefanie Seddon
    • Sogol Sur
    • Luke Tredget.

    Graduates go in to careers in editing, teaching and writing professionally. Possible professions include creative writer, magazine or newspaper journalist, or editorial assistant. This degree can also be useful in becoming an academic librarian, English as a second language (ESOL) teacher, or information officer.

    We offer a comprehensive Careers and Employability Service to help you advance your career, while our in-house, professional recruitment consultancy, Birkbeck Talent, works with London’s top employers to help you gain work experience that fits in with your evening studies.

  • How to apply

    How to apply

    You apply directly to Birkbeck for this course, using the online application.

    Please submit a portfolio of writing of around 5000 words with your application form. This can be a couple of short stories or a section of a novel with a synopsis (or a combination of the two). Please note that this MA is fiction-focused, with some provision for life writing, poetry, playwriting and screenwriting; however, the portfolio should be in the genre of fiction.

    Applicants must also submit a personal statement (approximately 1000 words), in which you discuss your current writing, present ideas for future projects and place your work in the context of contemporary writing. The portfolio and personal statement can be uploaded into the online application form.

    Birkbeck can give you all of the information and help you need to complete your application form.

    Application deadlines and interviews

    We begin considering applications in January, and, although we will accept applications until September, applicants are encouraged to apply by 1 June as the programme is very popular.

    Selected candidates will be invited to interview (interviews are held throughout the spring and early summer).