Creative Writing MFA

Equipping you with the skills required to produce more engaging and thought-provoking prose or poetry and to think critically about literature and the creative process

Why Surrey?

The MFA (Master of Fine Arts) Creative Writing programme at the University of Surrey offers you a unique opportunity to enhance your creative, critical and professional skills. It is taught by published writers and research-active academics expert in their fields.

Our MFA is a two-year full-time course of study, designed to build your confidence and technical ability in composing creative prose and/or poetry. The programme will help you gain hands-on practical skills and fuller understanding of the professional possibilities in your chosen field of artistic endeavour, while also developing a deeper and more extensive critical awareness of the cultural, literary and theoretical history of text production.

Programme overview

In your first year you will be studying alongside students in the MA programmes in Creative Writing and English Literature, taking modules intended to assist aspiring writers with honing and developing their writing skills in prose fiction and poetry. Over the course of the year you will develop a sizeable portfolio of increasingly sophisticated creative work, polished and improved through regular feedback from both peers and tutors. We will also help you to locate your work in its historical and cultural context, and you will become familiar with the history of literary production. Additionally, this first year of the programme will equip you with the research and writing skills you will need to produce both critically informed prose or poetry and creative criticism. You will also have the chance to reflect productively on both the creative process itself and the finished work that has resulted from it. The second year of the MFA  gives you the chance to gain hands-on experience 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 your own practice. This might take the form either of an intense and focused creative project (such as the composition and self-publication of a chapbook of poems) or a formal professional placement (for instance in a publishing company).

 In your second year you will also be producing an extended Creative Portfolio and Critical Commentary – a chance to produce a sizeable piece of Creative Writing in prose or poetry and to reflect upon the cultural contexts and creative challenges of this work. These pieces of writing mark the culmination of the two-year MFA, allowing you to demonstrate how far you have developed as a creative writer and critical thinker. Having successfully completed your MFA at the University of Surrey you will be graduating with a thorough practical and theoretical grounding in your specific chosen field of creative practice, and have produced a body of compelling and sophisticated creative and critical writing.

At the beginning of the MFA programme each student will be assigned a personal advisor who will help with the choice of modules, offer guidance on  finding or choosing an appropriate form of Situated Professional Practice and summative creative portfolio proposal, as well as any issues which may arise relating to the programme. Once the first year is complete, students will be assigned a creative writing dissertation supervisor who will provide one-to-one guidance in planning and structuring the summative creative writing portfolio.

Programme Content

First Year

In the first year the programme consists of three compulsory modules and one optional module in the first semester, and three compulsory modules and one optional module  in the second semester.

Compulsory Modules

Creative Writing Workshop

Weekly themed workshops in which all students read from and discuss work produced and circulated in advance of the class.

Literary Scholarship and Creativity

A joint seminar with students from the MA in English Literature, exploring the ways in which changing modes of text production and circulation have shaped the course of literary history, from Caxton to Kindle.

Research Skills

A joint seminar with students from the MA in English Literature, introducing key techniques and approaches shared by both critical and creative writing. Over two semesters, these seminars take students all the way through the composition process, from the initial research, planning and plotting stages to revising and editing an extended and highly developed finished piece of writing.

Optional Modules

Optional modules will vary from year to year but will include some of the following:

  • Advanced Studies in 19th-Century Literature and Culture
  • Advanced Studies in 20th and 21st-Century Literature and Culture
  • Contemporary British and American Poetry
  • Creative Identities
  • Creative Non-Fiction
  • Critical and Cultural Theory
  • Found Materials and Poetry
  • Genre Writing
  • Humour in Literature
  • Realism and its Critics
  • Semester-long ‘Special Author’ Critical Studies and Creative Pieces
  • Theorising Gender and Sexuality
  • Translation and Creativity

Creative Writing Options this year include:

  • Realism and its Critics
  • Beat Writing
  • Narrative and the Body
  • Found Materials

Other optional modules offered this year include:

  • Theorizing Gender and Sexuality
  • Identity: Marketing and Communication in Practice
  • Organisations and Written Communications
  • Issues in Literary Translation

Second Year

All Modules in the second year of the MFA are Compulsory.

Situated Professional Practice (Semester One)

In the first semester of Year 2 students do their Situated Professional Practice module. This allows for skills development, enhancement and critical reflectivity on practice. The Situated Professional Practice modules can be understood either as a form of internship at Surrey (for instance working with either Veer or Contraband books, our two in-house poetry presses) or with a relevant organisation/individual (such as a publishing company or literary agency), or as an intense and focused type of a specific practice (poetry writing, for example). Assessment consists of a reflective log on either an internship or a specific professional practice. Transfer of what students have learnt in terms of experience to future career or creative development will be part of the log.

Creative Portfolio and MFA Thesis Critical Commentary (Both Semesters)

During both semesters of their second year, students will be working towards the production of a supervised summative creative portfolio. During the second semester of the second year they will also undertake the ‘MFA Thesis Critical Commentary’ module, producing  an extended critical commentary locating their Creative Writing Summative Portfolio in critical, historical and literary context.

Module Overview

The MFA in Creative Writing provides a strong foundation in the core skills necessary to embark upon PhD research or a career in writing, communications, publishing, marketing, advertising, journalism or teaching.

English at the University of Surrey is a dynamic and innovative discipline, with established undergraduate and postgraduate research programmes in both English Literature and Creative Writing.

Teaching is research-led, with the MA in Creative Writing designed to reflect the individual expertise and passion of the members of staff who teach on it.

As a student on the MA 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.

Related programmes

Postgraduate (Taught)

Related departments/schools

Related research areas

Programme leader

Dr Angela Szczepaniak

Find out more

General enquiries:

+44 (0)1483 681 681

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Programme facts

Type of programme:


Programme length:

  • Full-time: 24 months

Start date:

Sep 2016

Entry Requirements

View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.


Study mode Start date UK/EU fees Overseas fees
Full-time Sep 2016 £6,000 £13,500

Please note these fees are for the academic year 2016/2017 only. Annual fees will rise by four per cent (rounded up to the nearest £100) for each year of study.

A complete list of all fees for our Masters Programmes


Discounts for Surrey graduates

Thinking of continuing your education at Surrey? As an alumnus of Surrey you may be eligible for a ten per cent discount on our taught Masters programme fees. Learn more.

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Further information for applicants

Postgraduate Study Advice

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Modules listed 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.

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