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Creative Writing (MFA)

Our MFA (Master of Fine Art) in Creative Writing offers you the opportunity to write a full-length work of fiction or non-fiction to a standard where it may be offered to literary agents.

The course is initially taught through small, dynamic workshops and seminars. But the core of the MFA is a one-to-one mentoring relationship with a regularly published and produced award-winning writer. Together, these will help you strengthen and professionalise your identity as an author. A session of feedback from a London-based literary agent will also be offered.

As part of a small, supportive group of writers, you will regularly present work for critique by your peers, and develop a critical and cultural awareness of other writers' work. You will then develop your awareness of the contemporary writing scene through a series of seminars and lectures.

In addition, novelists, editors and agents will be invited in to speak. In the past we have welcomed: Sophie Mackintosh, Polly Samson, Rachel Cusk, Deborah Levy and Louise Doughty; Jamie Byng of Canongate, Francesca Main of Picador, Hannah Griffiths of Faber, Richard Beswick of Little, Brown; and agents from Aitken Alexander, AP Watt, Curtis Brown and Janklow and Nesbit.

Highlights

  • In the most recent 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 MFA 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.
  • Read the Department of English, Theatre and Creative Writing blog to keep up to date with our research activities.
  • The School of Arts is an official partner of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. Opportunities for students have included a year’s free membership of the ICA, private views, discounts on all talks and events, free members' screenings and £3 cinema tickets on Tuesdays, up to 25% off ICA Artists' Editions and a monthly e-newsletter.

Course structure

The programme includes workshops on advanced writing, lectures by visiting writers on writing craft, and seminars on contemporary literature.

You take two core modules, write a 40,000-word dissertation and attend the Summer Lecture series with other Birkbeck Creative Writing students.

Module groups

To find out more, read our programme handbook.

Birkbeck makes all reasonable efforts to deliver educational services, modules and programmes of study as described on our website. In the event that there are material changes to our offering (for example, due to matters beyond our control), we will update applicant and student facing information as quickly as possible and offer alternatives to applicants, offer-holders and current students.

  • Entry Requirements

    Entry requirements

    We usually require an MA in Creative Writing from any accredited university. However, in individual cases this requirement can be waived.

    Interviews are granted on the basis of the following writing portfolio:

    • 5000 words of your original fiction or creative non-fiction, together with your application form, including a personal statement.
    • 300 words giving a description of the writing project you intend to work on, should you gain a place on the MFA.

    Portfolio guidelines:

    • Submit application
    • Wait up to 48 hours
    • Submit writing portfolio (Word or PDF) by logging into your MyBirkbeck profile, then going to the ‘Manage my application’ link and attaching the document

    Until all these materials are received, your application cannot be considered.

    Applications are reviewed on their individual merits and your professional qualifications and/or relevant work experience will be taken into consideration positively. We actively support and encourage applications from mature learners.

    On your application form, please list all your relevant qualifications and experience, including those you expect to achieve.

    Apply now to secure your place. The earlier you apply, the sooner your application can be considered and you can enrol. You do not need to have completed your current qualification to start your application.

    ENGLISH LANGUAGE 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 and foundation programmes 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 full-time courses (with the exception of modular enrolment certificates of higher education and graduate certificates), as these qualify for Tier 4 sponsorship. 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 courses (with the exception of some modules).

    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: £4320 pa
    Full-time home/EU students: £8640 pa
    Part-time international students: £7860 pa
    Full-time international students: £15720 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 through workshops, seminars, lectures and one-to-one tutorials. One feedback session will be offered by a London-based literary agent.

    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

    The degree is assessed by coursework and a dissertation of 40,000 words in the form of a work of creative non-fiction, a novella, part of a novel or a collection of short stories.

  • Careers and employability

    Careers and employability

    Many of our MA Creative Writing students have had notable publishing success after graduation, including:

    • Niki Aguirre
    • Sarah Alexander
    • Laura Allsop
    • Iphgenia Baal
    • Amy Bird
    • Phoebe Blatton
    • Nicole Burstein
    • Tray Butler
    • Melissa De Villiers
    • Liz Fremantle
    • AJ Grainger
    • Jules Grant
    • Julia Gray
    • Emma Henderson
    • Sally Hinchcliffe
    • Anna Hope
    • Heidi James
    • Olya Knezevic
    • Nik Korpon
    • Louise Lee
    • Matthew Loukes
    • Suzanne O'Sullivan
    • Nii Parkes
    • Helen Pike
    • Nadim Safdar
    • Karin Salvalaggio
    • David Savill
    • Stefanie Seddon.

      The MFA is a more advanced degree and it is anticipated that graduates may secure a publishing contract. Others may go on 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 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.

      Along with your application, you must submit up to 5000 words of your original writing. This can be in the genre of fiction or creative non-fiction. For fiction, it can be a couple of short stories or a section of a novel with a synopsis (or a combination of the two). For non-fiction, it can be a couple of sample chapters.

      You must also submit two academic/professional references.

      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.

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