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Creative Writing - MFA

Course Description

The MFA (Master of Fine Arts) Creative Writing programme at the University of Surrey is a two-year, full-time course of study that offers you a unique opportunity to enhance your creative, critical and professional skills as a writer.

Teaching is research-led, so you will be mentored by passionate, dynamic writers and academics with multidisciplinary expertise, as well as our Distinguished Writer in Residence and Poet in Residence.


Our MFA Creative Writing programme will expose you to the practical skills and challenges involved in a specific branch of creative practice (such as poetry or screenwriting) and offers the option to gain hands-on experience in a creative industry relevant to your own practice, to better prepare you for a wide variety of careers, including writing, publishing, communications, marketing, advertising, journalism, teaching, or to undertake a PhD.

In your first year, you will study alongside students in the MA programmes in Creative Writing and English Literature, where you will hone your research skills to produce critically informed creative work and deepen your practice as a writer.

To prepare for your second year, an academic advisor will offer guidance on choosing an appropriate form of Situated Professional Practice and your summative creative portfolio proposal.

During your second year you will work on producing an extended creative portfolio and critical commentary, as well as complete the Situated Professional Practice of your choice.


This programme is studied full-time over two academic years. It consists of eight taught modules, a professional placement, a critical commentary module and a creative portfolio project. The following modules are indicative, reflecting the information available at the time of publication. Please note that not all modules described are compulsory and may be subject to teaching availability and/or student demand.
-Research and Writing Skills I
-Research and Writing Skills II
-Literary Scholarship and Creativity I
-Literary Scholarship and Creativity II
-Creative Writing Workshop I
-Creative Writing Workshop II
-Open Creative Piece I
-Open Creative Piece II
-Genres and Contemporary Writing
-Humour in Literature
-Realism and Its Critics
-Creative Nonfiction
-Found Materials
-Situated Professional Placement
-Summative Critical Commentary
-Summative Creative Portfolio
-Children’s Literature


A Creative Writing MFA degree builds on the work of a traditional MA but distinguishes itself in a number of ways:
-It is intensely craft and practice-based
-It requires students’ immersion, for a part of their study time, in work environments that offer the opportunity to collaborate with established practitioners
-It is firmly based on a model of reflection in practice and on practice
-It requires teaching and learning that consistently balance theory and practice through well honed research skills
-It aims at enhancing students’ own sense of creativity and professional ambitions in specific artistic fields

For students to achieve an optimum balance between theory, practice and critical reflection, MFAs traditionally last at least two academic years and this is common practice both in the UK and the USA.

The MFA in Creative Writing is designed to assist aspiring writers to:
-Hone and develop their writing skills in prose fiction and/or poetry
-Locate their work in historical and cultural context, and to familiarize themselves with the history of literary production
-Equip themselves with the research and writing skills they will need to produce both critically informed prose or poetry and creative criticism
-Reflect productively on both the creative process itself and the finished work that has resulted from it
-Gain experience, through the Situated Professional Practice module, of the practical skills and creative challenges involved in a specific branch of creative practice (such as poetry, or writing for the stage) and/or of the workings and structure of a creative industry relevant to the student’s own practice

These educational aims accord neatly with the defining principles of Creative Writing as set out by the QAA’s NAWE Creative Writing Subject Benchmark Statement.


The programme provides opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate knowledge and understanding, skills, qualities and other attributes in the following areas:

Knowledge and understanding
-Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the main principles and challenges of creative writing
-Relate developments in the field of English Literature to the social, political and historical contexts of their own creative work
-Distinguish different approaches to literary production and reflect upon these in their own
-Develop a critical engagement with various theoretical approaches and methods
-Recognize the critical language required in advanced literary studies
-Identify and explain relevant techniques and strategies for producing high-quality creative writing

Intellectual / cognitive skills
-Critically appraise both scholarly and creative writing;
-Strategically develop research skills for retrieving information crucial for text production;
-Conduct conceptual and advanced research related to specific creative projects;
-Formulate and address research questions relating to creative and research projects.

Professional practical skills
-Produce high-quality creative work in and analysis of a variety of literary genres
-Verbally present abstract ideas and concepts in a clear and appropriate fashion
-Confidently deal with reading complex texts
-Acquire a sound knowledge of the key debates in literary studies
-Acquire review/evaluation skills for textual analyses at M-level
-Combine an understanding of text and context within and between periods

Key / transferable skills
-Display competence in a range of skills at postgraduate level, including creative writing, advanced analysis and synthesis of arguments, presentation, the conducting of independent research, and the efficient processing of complex ideas and arguments
-Collaborate by working in small groups to exchange ideas and engage in debates
-Develop knowledge in a specialized subject, area or period and command of terminology
-Organize, research and deliver a sustained piece of work to a high standard
-Create and carry out a research project of significant complexity


As a student on the MFA Creative Writing, you will benefit from the expertise of a vibrant, multidisciplinary group of academics and published authors.

You will also have access to a number of conferences, seminars and workshops hosted throughout the year. These events cover a range of topics to broaden your thinking in the fields of literature, language and linguistics, cultural studies and creative writing. Writers to have recently visited the University of Surrey include the novelist Monica Ali and the poet and critic Rod Mengham.

Each year’s cultural activities begin with a poetry lecture on campus by a visiting speaker and feature readings by students at the Guildford School of Acting.

The annual Surrey New Writers’ Festival – affiliated with the Creative Writing graduate programs at the University of Surrey – aims to engage with writing and creativity in dynamic ways, and involves readings, book signings, performances, panel discussions and talks by writers, thinkers, editors and literary agents.

The year’s activities culminate in the annual Morag Morris Poetry Festival, held in Guildford, which combines readings and performances by prominent, innovative and up-and-coming poets with the opportunity for Creative Writing students to present their own work in public.

This event is organised and hosted by our poet-in-residence – a position that is held by a different poet each year. English at Surrey also has a close relationship with English PEN, the charity dedicated to promoting literature and human rights.


We often give our students the opportunity to acquire international experience during their degrees by taking advantage of our exchange agreements with overseas universities.

In addition to the hugely enjoyable and satisfying experience, time spent abroad adds a distinctive element to your CV.

Visit the Creative Writing - MFA page on the University of Surrey website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Christina Webb

I wanted to experience life at a campus university, and have fond and funny memories of getting involved with all kinds of events at Surrey - from fancy dress to raising money for charities.

What attracted you to choose the University of Surrey and to study your course here?

The English Literature undergraduate course was the major factor in that it was very contemporary, thought-provoking and had a diverse range of culturally-significant topics. Secondly, Surrey’s employment factor. For me it was hugely important to focus on the future and results, so Surrey’s top employment statistics were essential. The gorgeous campus was also a pull. I wanted to experience uni life at a campus university, and have fond and funny memories all over it.

What is your strongest memory of your time at Surrey – what do you picture first when you think of being here?

Too many things – I’m torn! Lunches with friends on campus, creative discussions, that feeling of handing submissions in, Rubix nights. I’d have to say the overall strongest memories are of getting involved with various events at Surrey. From fancy dress to raising money for charities and more specifically the newspaper/radio/TV media party, a formal casino night and theme park rides and dressing up at graduation ball.

What were the best things about your course?

The contemporary reading list, as mentioned before. The fact I meandered into creative writing alongside English literature and took up a Creative Writing MA at Surrey afterwards. Making like-minded friends for life. The lecturers who were always happy to informally chat about your individual development and ideas. Opening up to new ideas and theories I wouldn’t have found before. I Loved it.


Discounts for Surrey graduates - No. of awards TBC

If you are a self-funded UK, EU or international student who has studied for an undergraduate degree at the University of Surrey campus in Guildford, you could be eligible for a ten per cent discount on our taught postgraduate Masters programme fees. This scheme is for applicable to Postgraduate Taught entry students only and is reviewed annually.Students who graduated in 2013 are eligible, as well as alumni from previous years, on receipt of evidence of the award from Surrey and where we can identify that you actually studied in Guildford. Students from SII-DUFE are eligible for this scheme.Associated Institution students are not eligible. Not available to modular self-pacing students.

Value of Scholarship(s)

10% tuition fee discount


If you are a self-funded UK, EU or international student who has studied for an undergraduate degree at the University of Surrey campus in Guildford

Application Procedure

If you have any enquiries regarding this matter please contact the Student Fees and Funding Office on [email protected]

Further Information


Entry Requirements

Applicants should have a first or 2.1 degree (or equivalent) and will be asked as part of the application procedure to provide a portfolio of creative material (5,000 words prose or equivalent). In exceptional cases, students with a proven commitment to creative writing but no first degree may also be admitted.

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