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phd creative writing cambridge

Who are we? 

We are the University of Cambridge Centre for Creative Writing, based within the Institute of Continuing Education.

We believe in the power of writing and reading to change lives and bring people together both locally and around the world.

Collaboration and partnership are at the heart of what we do. If you'd like to join us in building this exciting new phase in the development of the centre, please get in touch by filling out the form below.

Studying at ICE

Our courses are open to everyone and are designed for part-time study at our beautiful home of Madingley Hall, just outside Cambridge.

We welcome students from all backgrounds and levels of experience. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or an experienced writer, there will be something for you.

Our courses

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Department of English and Related Literature

PhD in English with Creative Writing

Join a thriving community of researchers to develop a substantial research project alongside an original piece of creative writing.

Join a passionate and intellectual research community to explore literature across all periods and genres.

Your research

Our PhD in English with Creative Writing encourages distinctive approaches to practice-based literary research. This route allows you to develop a substantial research project, which incorporates an original work of creative writing (in prose, poetry, or other forms). As part of a thriving community of postgraduate researchers and writers, you'll be supported by world-leading experts with a wide range of global and historical specialisms, and given access to unique resources including our   letterpress printing studio  and   Writer in Residence.

Under the guidance of your supervisor, you will complete a critical research component of 30-40,000 words and a creative component written to its natural length (eg a book-length work of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction). A typical semester will involve a great deal of independent research, punctuated by meetings with your supervisor who will be able to suggest direction and address concerns throughout the writing process. You will be encouraged to undertake periods of research at archives and potentially internationally, depending on your research.

Throughout your degree, you will have the opportunity to attend a wide range of research training sessions in order to learn archival and research skills, as well as a range of research and creative seminars organised by the research schools and our distinguished Writers at York series. This brings speakers from around the world for research talks, author conversations, and networking.

Applicants for the PhD in English with Creative Writing should submit a research proposal for their overall research project, along with samples of creative and critical writing, demonstrating a suitable ability in each, as part of the application. Proposals should include plans for a critical research component of 30-40,000 words and a creative component written to its natural length (eg a book-length work of poetry, fiction or creative nonfiction), while demonstrating a clear relationship between the two.

Students embarking on a PhD programme are initially enrolled provisionally for this qualification until they pass their progression review at the end of their first full year of study. 

[email protected] +44 (0) 1904 323366

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You also have the option of enrolling in a PhD in English with Creative Writing by distance learning, where you will have the flexibility to work from anywhere in the world. You will attend the Research Training Programme online in your first year and have supervision and progression meetings online.

You must attend a five-day induction programme in York at the beginning of your first year. You will also visit York in your second and third years (every other year for part-time students).

Apply for PhD in English with Creative Writing (distance learning)

World-leading research

We're a top ten research department according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021).

35th in the world

for English Language and Literature in the QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2023.

Committed to equality

We're proud to hold an Athena Swan Bronze award in recognition of the work we do to support gender equality in English.

Writers at York series

We host a series of hugely successful seminars, open to everyone, where a stellar cast of world-famous contemporary writers deliver readings and workshops.

phd creative writing cambridge

Explore funding for postgraduate researchers in the Department of English and Related Literature.

phd creative writing cambridge

Supervision

Explore the expertise of our staff and identify a potential supervisor.

Research student training

You'll receive training in research methods and skills appropriate to the stage you've reached and the nature of your work. In addition to regular supervisory meetings to discuss planning, researching and writing the thesis, we offer sessions on bibliographic and archival resources (digital, print and manuscript). You'll receive guidance in applying to and presenting at professional conferences, preparing and submitting material for publication and applying for jobs. We meet other training needs in handling research data, various modern languages, palaeography and bibliography. Classical and medieval Latin are also available.

We offer training in teaching skills if you wish to pursue teaching posts following your degree. This includes sessions on the delivery and content of seminars and workshops to undergraduates, a structured shadowing programme, teaching inductions and comprehensive guidance and resources for our graduate teaching assistants. Our teacher training is directed by a dedicated member of staff.

You'll also benefit from the rich array of research and training sessions at the Humanities Research Centre .

phd creative writing cambridge

Course location

This course is run by the Department of English and Related Literature.

You'll be based on  Campus West , though your research may take you further afield.

We also have a distance learning option available for this course.

Entry requirements

For doctoral research, you should hold or be predicted to achieve a first-class or high upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualification) and a Masters degree with distinction. 

The undergraduate and Masters degrees should be in literature and/or creative writing, or in a related subject that is related to the proposed research project. 

Other relevant experience and expertise may also be considered:

  • Evidence of training in research techniques may be an advantage.
  • It would be expected that postgraduate applicants would be familiar with the recent published work of their proposed supervisor.
  • Publications are not required and the Department of English and Related Literature does not expect applicants to have been published before they start their research degrees.

Supervisors interview you to ensure a good supervisory match and to help with funding applications.

The core deciding factor for admission is the quality of the research proposal, though your whole academic profile will be taken into account. We are committed to ensuring that no prospective or existing student is treated less favourably. See our  admissions policy  for more information.

Apply for the PhD in English with Creative Writing

Have a look at the supporting documents you may need for your application.

Before applying, we advise you to identify potential supervisors in the department. Preliminary enquiries are welcomed and should be made as early as possible. However, a scattershot approach – emailing all staff members regardless of the relationship between their research interests and yours – is unlikely to produce positive results. 

If it's not clear which member of staff is appropriate, you should email the   Graduate Chair .

Students embarking on a PhD programme are initially enrolled provisionally for that qualification. Confirmation of PhD registration is dependent upon the submission of a satisfactory proposal that meets the standards required for the degree, usually in the second year of study.

Find out more about how to apply .

English language requirements

You'll need to provide evidence of your proficiency in English if it's not your first language.

Check your English language requirements

Research proposal

In order to apply for a PhD, we ask that you submit a research proposal as part of your application.

When making your application, you're advised to make your research proposals as specific and clear as possible. Please indicate the member(s) of staff that you'd wish to work with

You’ll need to provide a summary of between 250 and 350 words in length of your research proposal and a longer version of around 800 words (limit of 1000). The proposal for the MA in English (by research) should be 400–500 words.

Your research proposal should:

  • Identify the precise topic of your topic and communicate the main aim of your research.
  • Provide a rigorous and thorough description of your proposed research, including the contributions you will make to current scholarly conversations and debates. Creative Writing proposals should include plans for a critical research and a creative component.
  • Describe any previous work you have done in this area, with reference to relevant literature you have read so far.
  • Communicate the central sources that the project will address and engage.
  • Offer an outline of the argument’s main claims and contributions. Give a clear indication of the authors and texts that your project will address.
  • Include the academic factors, such as university facilities, libraries resources, centres, other resources, and / or staff, which have specifically led you to apply to York.

What we look for:

  • How you place your topic in conversation with the scholarly landscape: what has been accomplished and what you plan to achieve. This is your chance to show that you have a good understanding of the relevant work on your topic and that you have identified a new way or research question to approach the topic.
  • Your voice as a scholar and critical thinker. In clean, clear prose, show those who will assess your application how your proposal demonstrates your original thinking and the potential of your research.
  • Your fit with York, including the reasons for working with your supervisor and relevant research schools and centres.
  • Above all, remember that there isn’t one uniform way to structure and arrange your research proposal, and that your approach will necessarily reflect your chosen topic.

Careers and skills

  • You'll receive support in applying to and presenting at professional conferences, preparing and submitting material for publication and applying for jobs.
  • You'll benefit from training in handling research data, various modern languages, palaeography and bibliography. Classical and medieval Latin are also available. The   Humanities Research Centre   also offers a rich array of valuable training sessions.
  • We also offer training in teaching skills if you wish to pursue a teaching post following your degree. This includes sessions on the delivery and content of seminars and workshops to undergraduates, a structured shadowing programme, teaching inductions and comprehensive guidance and resources for our graduate teaching assistants.
  • You'll have the opportunity to further your training by taking courses accredited by Advance HE:   York Learning and Teaching Award (YLTA)   and the   York Professional and Academic Development scheme (YPAD) .

Find out more about careers

phd creative writing cambridge

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Cambridge launches first Creative Writing degree

phd creative writing cambridge

The University of Cambridge’s first Master of Studies (MSt) in Creative Writing will explore the art of writing in all its many forms and guises, not just novel writing, according to Course Director Dr Sarah Burton.

There is always an element of writing that is almost inexplicable – that’s the magical element that can’t be taught – that’s what the student brings. Sarah Burton

The two-year, part-time course, run by the Institute of Continuing Education and developed in conjunction with the Faculty of English, begins in October 2013 with applications for entry closing at the end of this month (March).

But rather than focusing purely on fiction and creative non-fiction, the MSt in Creative Writing will also take in political speechwriting, radio essays, stand-up comedy and polyphonic scripts for stage, screen and radio.

Students will also learn the art of the short story, flash fiction, writing for children, as well as poetry, literary non-fiction, criticism, reviews, and travel writing in the first year of study.

Guest speakers are likely to include Wendy Cope, Michael Holroyd and comedian Stewart Lee.

Dr Burton said: “The MSt has been carefully designed to fit around people’s busy lives with intensive residential study pods strategically placed across the two years to enable the fullest participation. The first year will cover a wide range of genres and styles to encourage our writers to develop versatility through experimentation with new forms – while there is the chance to focus on a specialist strength, under expert supervision, in their second year.

“Writing for children is often neglected and this course is unique in offering a relationship with a local school where ideas can be developed and workshopped with a live audience.”

Successful applicants to the course will become members of one of three Cambridge colleges (Wolfson, St Edmund’s and Lucy Cavendish) and will join the wider graduate community with full access to the facilities of the University.

Dr David Frost, Tutor for Part-Time Students at Wolfson College, said: “I am very excited at the prospect of Creative Writing students becoming members of our college. We are already a vibrant postgraduate community which includes professionals such as journalists, lawyers, teachers, doctors and architects as well as researchers in the arts and the sciences. We would really love to add writers to this mix.”

Another unusual feature of the course is that in the first year critical writing is formally assessed, but creative writing is not.

Added Dr Burton: “Extensive feedback will be given on creative writing, but we are removing the pressures of formal marking, freeing students to allow themselves to develop and extend their skills by having permission to experiment, rather than fall back on what they already do well. This encourages ambitious and original, rather than conservative and ‘safe’, writing.”

The course tutors and guest speakers are all established literary professionals. Year one consists of four modules, which take place in October, December, February and June: Finding Voices, Writing for Readers, Writing for Performance and Non-fiction. A four-day residency of intensive workshops, seminars and lectures forms the core of each module.

The second year of study, in which students work more independently on their chosen genre, features two more short residential sessions at Madingley Hall and students will write a thesis in the form of a portfolio of creative and critical writing.

“The question of whether you can teach anyone to write is a valid one, and of course you can’t make anyone a writer,” Dr Burton added. “However, you can nurture raw talent, help nascent writers find their own voices and offer the sort of advice and counsel that writers have historically offered each other informally (Charles Lamb’s advice to Coleridge to ‘cultivate simplicity’ is a great example) in a structured and methodical way. There are more efficient routes to improving your writing than trying to work out, all on your own, how to create certain effects. But it’s by no means a science. There is always an element of writing that is almost inexplicable – that’s the magical element that can’t be taught – that’s what the student brings.”

Further details on course fees, entry and visa requirements are available at the ICE website .

phd creative writing cambridge

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Course closed:

English is no longer accepting new applications.

Cambridge is an outstanding place to work on Anglophone literature. Students and scholars benefit from world-class libraries, and from each other. The PhD cohort is diverse and large in number. No particular area or approach is preferred. Faculty members who act as supervisors and advisors for doctoral theses work on a great variety of topics and in varied ways. Proposals of all kinds are therefore welcome: on little-known as well as canonical authors; from innovative and interdisciplinary as well as from more traditional thematic, theoretical, cultural and literary-historical perspectives. Regular postgraduate training sessions offer guidance at every stage of the process - from first-year assessment to learning to teach to applying for jobs. In addition to the formal training, there are excellent opportunities for the sorts of enriching conversations and collaborations that emerge informally, between fellow PhDs, MPhils and Faculty members. Some of these take place under the auspices of the student-run Graduate Research Forum.  Regular Research Seminars focus on particular periods and fields (for instance, Medieval, Nineteenth Century, Postcolonial and Related Literatures); these combine internal and invited speakers, and encourage discussions and relationships between the entire research community.  The Faculty also puts on occasional conferences on all manner of topics; like the research seminars, many of the most successful and exciting ones are conceived of and run by PhD students.

The Postgraduate Virtual Open Day usually takes place at the end of October. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions to admissions staff and academics, explore the Colleges virtually, and to find out more about courses, the application process and funding opportunities. Visit the  Postgraduate Open Day  page for more details.

See further the  Postgraduate Admissions Events  pages for other events relating to Postgraduate study, including study fairs, visits and international events.

Key Information

3-4 years full-time, 4-7 years part-time, study mode : research, doctor of philosophy, faculty of english, course - related enquiries, application - related enquiries, course on department website, dates and deadlines:, michaelmas 2024 (closed).

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Lent 2025 (Closed)

Easter 2025 (closed), funding deadlines.

These deadlines apply to applications for courses starting in Michaelmas 2024, Lent 2025 and Easter 2025.

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COMMENTS

  1. University of Cambridge Centre for Creative Writing

    We are the University of Cambridge Centre for Creative Writing, based within the Institute of Continuing Education. We believe in the power of writing and reading to change lives and bring people together both locally and around the world. Collaboration and partnership are at the heart of what we do.

  2. Faculty of English | Postgraduate Study - University of Cambridge

    English - PhD - Closed. The PhD is a research degree, examined, usually after three or more years of research, by a thesis of 60,000–80,000 words. The criteria for obtaining the degree are that the thesis represent a "substantial contribution to knowledge" and a realistic amount of work for three years' study. More Information.

  3. Creative Writing - MPhil, PhD - ARU - Anglia Ruskin University

    At Cambridge School of Creative Industries, we believe in the importance of experimentation and risk-taking to create experiences that entertain, educate, inspire and improve lives. Whether writing bestselling fiction, creating challenging documentaries or sharing a piano with people on the autism spectrum, the expertise of our staff goes far ...

  4. PhD in English with Creative Writing - Department of English ...

    Our PhD in English with Creative Writing encourages distinctive approaches to practice-based literary research. This route allows you to develop a substantial research project, which incorporates an original work of creative writing (in prose, poetry, or other forms).

  5. Cambridge launches first Creative Writing degree

    The course tutors and guest speakers are all established literary professionals. Year one consists of four modules, which take place in October, December, February and June: Finding Voices, Writing for Readers, Writing for Performance and Non-fiction. A four-day residency of intensive workshops, seminars and lectures forms the core of each module.

  6. PhD in English | Postgraduate Study - University of Cambridge

    Students and scholars benefit from world-class libraries, and from each other. The PhD cohort is diverse and large in number. No particular area or approach is preferred. Faculty members who act as supervisors and advisors for doctoral theses work on a great variety of topics and in varied ways. Proposals of all kinds are therefore welcome: on ...