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MFA in Creative Writing

West Sands at night

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is a two-year postgraduate degree, and consists of two distinct phases of study. MFA Year 1 is taught through technical seminars, workshops and individual tuition; MFA Year 2 consists of two semesters of postgraduate supervision, at the end of which students will submit a substantial piece of creative work. In addition, there are two ‘career skills’ modules – in MFA Year 1, ‘Research Skills for Creative Writers’; in MFA Year 2, ‘Practical Pedagogy for Creative Writers’. ‘Practical Pedagogy for Creative Writers’ will also contain a publication project in the form of an online magazine edited by MFA Year 2 students.

The degree has three separate streams: Poetry, Prose and Writing for Performance - Playwriting & Screenwriting, and prospective students should apply for one stream only. For their final submission, students on the prose track will submit a thesis (of ‘publishable quality’) of around 40,000 words; for poetry, a thesis of c. 40 pp. of verse; for Writing for Performance, a thesis of approximately 90 minutes performance time. A crucial component of MFA study will be hands-on experience in the business of publication itself, in the form of an on-line magazine edited and published by the MFA Year 2 cohort.

MLitt students will, on the successful completion of an upgrade procedure, have the option to transfer into the MFA programme, where their MLitt year will count as MFA Year 1. Students who already hold a Masters level degree in Creative Writing may apply directly into Year 2 of the MFA. Please mark this clearly on your research proposal document.


About the Creative Writing MFA

ReadingThe MFA is a higher credential than the MLitt, and is the internationally recognized standard for teachers of Creative Writing in secondary and tertiary higher education; most consider the MFA the qualification required to teach creative writing in North America and Europe.

St Andrews is one of the first universities in the UK to confer the MFA degree. Within the programme, students will be able to focus on producing a substantial piece of creative work under the supervision of a world-class writing faculty, and on preparing themselves as teachers of writing in a variety of instructional contexts. Since our MFA Year 1 students complete the same taught classes as our MLitt students, there is a far stronger emphasis placed on contact time than in other universities.

For further information please see the Creative Writing website.

Entry Requirements

MFA Year 1 entrants – Normally a good honours level undergraduate degree or equivalent

MFA Year 2 entrants – Applicants should hold or expect to obtain a Masters degree in Creative Writing at distinction level grade.

Fees Tuition fee information can be found at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/study/pg/fees-and-funding/research-fees/. This page also includes links to other relevant information, such as accommodation fees etc.

Fees

Fees Tuition fee information can be found at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/study/pg/fees-and-funding/research-fees/. This page also includes links to other relevant information, such as accommodation fees etc.

Funding

The School of English offers a small number of awards for applicants to the MFA programme.

Information about funding can be found at: http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/english/postgraduate/funding/.

Why St Andrews?

View of St Andrews from the beach

St Andrews was one of the first universities in the world to teach English literature. Today, with thirty members of permanent staff, we pride ourselves on our friendliness, and on our common enthusiasm for great literature.

You will be part of a welcoming and lively academic community. There is an active student-run Literary Society and the Postgraduate Forum, where postgraduates meet to present and discuss their on-going work. Each semester, the School invites distinguished visiting academics and creative writers to lead seminars, lectures and workshops as part of our regular research events.

St Andrews is the United Kingdom’s pre-eminent university after Oxbridge. In The Guardian University Guide 2015 and The Sunday Times and Times Good University Guide 2015, St Andrews was ranked 3rd in the UK, with the School of English ranked 4th in the UK by The Guardian’s subject-specific table.

Applying for MFA study

ApplyingApplying for MFA study Applications should be submitted via the research degree option of the fully automated online application system and you should ensure that you have all additional documents required available for upload at point of application.

The writing samples provided within your application are incredibly important in the assessment process. Ideally, this should be a piece of distinction-grade writing which you have recently completed, and must be on a theme related to your programme intention.

Application deadlines for receipt of complete study application:

  • 31 January for students also applying for internal scholarships
  • 15 April for applicants with visa requirements
  • 1 June for all other applicants

Application document requirements:

  • CV/resume
  • 2 academic references (directly from referees via the automated system)
  • An academic critical writing sample of approximately 2,000 words which should be on an English literature topic.
  • A portfolio of original verse, prose or play/screenwriting (approximately 10 poems or around 10-15 pages of prose or play/screenwriting). Please add this sample as a section of your academic writing sample and upload as one document.
  • Certified academic transcripts of study, including modular grades (interim UG level transcripts are permitted at this stage where final results are not yet known)
  • MFA research proposal: MFA Year 2 direct entrants should confirm which strand and year of the programme you are applying for, and also supply a 500-word outline of the proposed creative project; MFA Year 1 entrants should merely state the strand and year of the programme that you are applying for, and confirm that your intended project will be relevant for that genre
  • Statement of Purpose
  • IELTS/CPE/TOEFL certificate (if applicable) with an IELTS 8.0 grade minimum or equivalent in each sub-category

Who can supervise my research?

Year one entrants are not required to contact a prospective supervisor prior to application submission since one will be allocated during their studies automatically, but for Year 2 direct entrants this is a crucial step in the process. The following members of staff may be available to supervise research topics:

Professor John Burnside

I am able to supervise students working on creative non-fiction, short fiction and the novel.


Professor Robert Crawford


Oliver Emanuel

I'm a playwright and would hope to supervise students interested in stage and radio, original work or adaptations, as well as drama for younger audiences.


Lesley GlaisterLesley Glaister

I am interested in supervising long and short prose work, particularly fiction, contemporary and historical.


Zinnie Harris (c) Alan McCredieZinnie Harris

I am a playwright and screenwriter, and hope to supervise students who are interested in writing for stage and / or screen. I have also adapted novels and classic texts for both theatre and television, and have written for radio.


Don PatersonProfessor Don Paterson

I am happy to supervise MFA poetry theses, and work in short or  fragmentary forms, especially the aphorism.


Facilities – 66 North Street

In 2007 the School acquired 66 North Street as a dedicated 24 hour research facility for its postgraduate students. This lovely early nineteenth-century building has a long history and once served as the old maternity hospital for St Andrews. Many of our students remark on its creative and nurturing atmosphere. Set in its own garden in the middle of town, five minutes from the School of English and just across the road from the University Library, 66 North Street provides a bright, peaceful, convivial working environment housing most of our postgraduate body in a mixture of shared offices and computer bench rooms. The common room with its own kitchen and informal lending library and the garden are used regularly for seminar discussions, conversation, and lunches (working or otherwise!)

All postgraduate workstations are fully networked; the building has wireless access and the dedicated use of a networked laser printer with photocopying and scanning functions. These outstanding facilities together with the resources of a world-leading research School make English at St Andrews a top destination for students.

What our students say

St. Andrews is magical, even if you've never stepped foot on a golf course. There is something glorious about the mix of the small town, the water, the seagulls, the sea. I think the beauty of this place and its history make for a great place to learn. The Creative Writing department at St. Andrews is full of professors that care intensely about their students, their writing, and the literary world.

Tara Lawrence
October 2015


The strength of the Creative Writing MFA programme at the University of St Andrews resides in its emphasis on self-directed study. Indeed, the flexibility of this program has allowed me to balance both life and school, while further developing my writing practice. I now feel more confident in my ability to carve out a life for myself as a writer outside of the academic context. Don Paterson, Robert Crawford, and John Burnside have been unfailingly supportive mentors, and every day I feel fortunate that I have been given the opportunity to learn from such renowned writers.

Amanda Merritt
October 2015


The St Andrews Creative Writing MFA programme has provided a wonderful opportunity for reflection and growth.  Don Paterson, Robert Crawford, John Burnside and guest tutors - whether poets, prose writers or dramatists – have been unfailingly generous in sharing their insights and experience. While Year 1 was primarily about developing or reinforcing technical or craft skills, Year 2 also offered practical opportunities to develop teaching and editorial experience. Above all, Year 2 also gave the space to build confidence about, and gain perspective on, a body of work developed under Don Paterson’s rigorous yet immensely supportive supervision. Putting together the final thesis was a totally absorbing poetic and editorial exercise. St Andrews has been fun, full of friendship, sometimes hectic, sometimes challenging and always stimulating! 

Helen Nicholson
October 2016

Visiting St Andrews

Castle House in the snow

In 2007, the University of St Andrews held its first visiting day specifically designed for postgraduate students, both for those interested in taught Masters courses and for those investigating our research degree opportunities.

The University encourages prospective students to book a place on a Visiting Day (http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/study/pg/meet-us/visiting-days/) in order to appreciate the University's splendid location, the quality of the teaching and research on offer and the vibrant social scene. Experience the School for yourself and be inspired and encouraged by what you hear, see and do.

To prevent disappointment, all online bookings should be completed two weeks prior to your preferred date. Around that time or earlier, dates will be removed from the booking form if the date is oversubscribed.

Careers

The benefits of postgraduate study at St Andrews stretch far beyond graduation. As well as joining a long line of notable alumni and academics, postgraduate students are supported in their next steps by both the Careers Centre and the University alumni relations team. See http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/careers/.

The University also provides an extensive and award-winning generic skills development programme – GRADskills – for all of its early career researchers, including PhD, MFA and MPhil students.