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Playwriting (MA)

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Course overview

Led by some of the country's leading teachers and practitioners in the field, this course is designed for aspiring playwrights and dramaturgs as well as those who want to gain an intensive, hands-on training in playwriting.

Studying at the UK's largest drama department, you will enhance your skills in writing for performance by developing your own plays in a variety of different forms and styles, from stage to radio, the traditional single-authored play to writing for devised theatre and live art. Students will be taught by experienced, professionally-produced and published playwrights. Recent visitors to the college have included Simon Stephens, April de Angelis, Roy Williams, Dennis Kelly, Martin Crimp, David Eldridge, Linda McLean, David Greig, Howard Barker, Michael Frayn and Duncan Macmillan.

All students complete an independently-researched dissertation, which offers a further opportunity to develop your own area of specialist interest.

The class is normally taught in the College’s London base in Bedford Square.

Key facts

Key facts about the course
Qualification Master of Arts
Duration 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
Department and Faculty Drama and Theatre, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Partner institution(s) --
Course director Tanika Gupta MBE
Contact for more information Faculty Administrator
+ 44 (0)1784 443922

Fees / funding

Please visit the Fees and funding pages for the latest information about tuition fees and the different sources of funding which may be available to you.

How to apply

Applications for entry to all our full-time postgraduate degrees can be made online.

Further information on making an application, including the documentation that you will need to submit with the application is available in the How to apply section of this site.

If you are interested in applying to Royal Holloway, why not arrange a visit to our campus to see for yourself what academic and student life is like here. More information on arranging visits is available on our Open days pages.


Entry requirements

Entry criteria:

UK Upper Second Class Honours degree (2:1) or equivalent.

Professional qualifications and work experience in an associated area will be considered.

English language requirements:

IELTS 6.5 overall with 7.0 in writing and a minimum of 5.5 in all other subscores. For equivalencies see here|.

We welcome applications from candidates who have a first degree in a field other than Drama and who can demonstrate strong interest in/experience of making and analysing theatre. We also welcome applications from candidates from non-traditional backgrounds. 

Students from overseas should visit the International pages for information on the entry requirements from their country and further information on English language requirements. Royal Holloway offers a Pre-Master’s Diploma for International Students and English language pre-sessional courses, allowing students the opportunity to develop their study skills and English language before starting their postgraduate degree.

Additional requirements:

  • You will be required to submit two pieces of writing: an original piece of playwriting (at least six pages) and either an academic essay or two analyses of recent professional theatre productions that demonstrate how meaning is created in performance and are not merely a description of the show. (Approximately 2,000 words each.)
  • We invite suitable applicants to come for an interview. If applicants are unable to attend, such as overseas students, we can offer a telephone/online interview instead.

A successful applicant will usually have the following qualities:

  • a demonstrable passion for and experience in relevant theatre practice
  • a commitment to collaborative as well as independent working
  • an understanding of the ways theory and practice might mutually inform each other.

Why choose this course?

  • The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise ranked the majority of the Department's research activities as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*).
  • Royal Holloway has the largest Drama Department in the UK with 25 academic members of staff working at the cutting edges of the discipline.
  • We foster an excellent research environment and support a vibrant community of postgraduate and doctoral students.
  • The topics taught reflect the research excellence of the course faculty and our distinctive commitment to nurturing critically-informed practice.
  • You will benefit from a range of unique performance spaces which include a traditional Japanese Noh theatre, a fully equipped black box studio and the substantial Victorian Boilerhouse. 

Department research and industry highlights

  • The department has strong links with a range of theatre companies, organisations and practitioners and regularly invites visiting speakers and practitioners to work with students.
  • There are a number of active research groups in the department that organise a range of activities each year addressing specific subject areas and research questions.
  • Members of the academic staff are leading researchers in the field of theatre and performance practice.

Course content and structure

You will study core course units and complete a dissertation.

Core course units:

Playwriting (80 credits)

This unit is taught over three terms and assessed through a portfolio of theatrical and performance texts, accompanied by written analysis of this work. In the first half of this course, you’ll learn the craft skills of playwriting, experience different approaches to structure, scenes, dialogue, character, subtext, plot and action.  In the second half, you’ll present a draft of your own play to be read and discussed by your tutor and fellow students.

Making Performance (40 credits)

In the course students will encounter a range of different working practices through a series of practical workshops with leading contemporary theatre makers and performance artists. These workshops will provide students with insight into a variety of performance making processes and consider the discourse, both political and aesthetic, that underpins these working methodologies. Alongside the practical workshops and devising small group projects, students will be expected to pursue independent research into a chosen field offered within the module. The aim is to support rigorous critical writing of sufficient length and substance to allow thoughtful and thought provoking response to the practices encountered.

Dissertation (60 credits)

Students on the MA Playwriting programme write a full-length play with an accompanying substantial essay (6-7000 words). This work is supported by a methodologies course.

On completion of the course graduates will have:

  • enhanced and applied their skills as reflective playwrights
  • worked in a range of different theatrical/dramaturgical contexts
  • developed their understanding of contemporary playwriting and its contexts
  • explored the scope of theatre studies and its critical and research methodologies
  • developed their ability to undertake independent research and analysis. 

View the full course specification for Playwriting (MA) in the Programme Specification Repository


Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including essays and performance analyses, practical projects as well as a final dissertation. Practical projects are sometimes carried out in a group and may include an element of assessment for an individual’s contribution to group working and direction. You will undertake a summer term practical project.

Employability & career opportunities

Our graduates are highly employable and, in recent years, have entered many different drama and theatre-related areas, including careers in professional theatre, training and education. This course also equips you with a solid foundation for continued PhD studies and many of our students go on to advanced research.


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