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English and Creative Writing

Over the last ten years a very strong Creative Writing team has been established at Royal Holloway, and Creative Writing now has a marked presence at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. The Creative Writing team is made up of teachers with a substantial experience of teaching Creative Writing and a significant publication record.

The BA offers a three-year joint honours degree in either English and Creative Writing, or Drama and Creative Writing (in partnership with the Drama Department), which pairs the traditional study of English Literature (or Drama) with study that focuses on practice-based work in Creative Writing. The Department also offers two MAs in the field: the MA in Creative Writing, which is recognised as one of the leading UK Creative Writing MAs, and the MA in Poetic Practice, which was built on the English Department’s success in developing its distinctive 'Poetic Practice' option at BA level. Following the University of London's ratification of practice-based PhDs, the English Department also has a growing number of doctoral students whose PhD research includes the production of a substantial portfolio of creative work. A growing number of our MA and PhD students have gone on to success as writers, both in fiction and poetry.

Our Creative Writing programmes place writing practice at the heart of the students’ learning experience, rigorously testing that practice against the student's growing awareness of contemporary, theoretical and cultural debates. At the same time, by combining Creative Writing with English or Drama, students are able to place these contemporary debates within a larger cultural context. The value of these joint-degree programmes is clear in terms of the development of the individual’s creative writing practice and exposure to a wider study of literature or drama. Increasingly within English degrees in higher education, creative practice—the writing of poetry, drama and fiction—has taken its place alongside more traditional research methods as a means of investigating and understanding literature. The principle is long-established within British Theatre Studies' departments that practical exploration complements and supports theoretical discussion and textual analysis, and the Creative Writing programme at Royal Holloway extends this principle to the study of literature. There is a unique insight to be gained by considering texts from within, appreciating as a practitioner the techniques and innovations of a text, the stylistic and cultural interventions that the writer is making, and that one wishes to make as a writer oneself. These are insights that can be shared, and the gaining of such insights through a combination of traditional analysis and creative involvement with a variety of literary forms is a uniquely valuable experience.

In addition, to learn how to generate and shape an artistic work is a valuable life skill, with uses and applications far beyond the immediate tasks of writing poems, plays, scripts and novels. The essential tasks for anyone creating her or his own work - considering questions of character, voice, ambiguity, style and cultural context - are themselves crucial skills of value to any kind of writing, from journalism and website creation, to advertising, copywriting and academic publishing. The degree, in effect, offers an advanced course in cultural understanding and appreciation, encouraging students to learn how to articulate and debate the process of cultural production and to find an appropriate language in order to express and assess artistic achievement.


The beautiful Royal Holloway campus is the focal point of student life and is home to an impressive range of modern facilities. The Departments of Drama and English occupy five substantial buildings in the heart of the campus, encompassing four theatres, substantial IT facilities, a digital studio and design cottage. The College’s extensive Library and Computer Centre are also close to hand.

In addition to the campus in Egham, the College has a well-equipped building at Bedford Square in central London which provides an important teaching facility. This is currently used particularly for the MA in Creative Writing and the MA in Poetic Practice.

Entry Requirements

Our standard offer is ABB with an A in English. We also welcome mature students who are coming to higher education from alternative routes.

Applications for entry to all our full-time undergraduate degrees must be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). To make an application you will need a UCAS application form and directory. Your school or college should have these materials, otherwise you can write, after 1 August, to UCAS Enquiries, UCAS, PO Box 28, Cheltenham, GL52 3LZ; call +44 (0)870 1122211; or visit the UCAS website at: www.ucas.com.

The UCAS form requires an institution code and a course code. The institution code for Royal Holloway is R72, RHUL. The course code for English & Creative Writing is QW38. All students applying to this degree programme are encouraged to attend one of the UCAS Open Days and to visit both departments. Open Day details can be found on the College website at: www.rhul.ac.uk.

We also require samples of creative work, based on two short assignments. See the Admissions page for further details.

Typical Offers

ABB at A-level, normally with A in English Literature or English Language and Literature. Please note that General Studies at A-level is not acceptable as one of our A-level requirements. A foreign language (classical or modern) at GCSE is very welcome but not essential.

Alternative Qualifications

Special consideration is given to mature applicants and students without a conventional educational background. We look favourably, for example, upon students who are returning to study through an Access course. We also consider all appropriate overseas qualifications. Overseas applicants are expected to have considerable proficiency in the English language; the minimum levels we usually consider are an IELTS score with minimum sub-scores of 7, or a TOEFL score of 570.

Academic Staff

Professor Robert Hampson, BA (London), MA (Toronto), PhD (London), FEA, FRSA. In addition to his work on Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford – which includes the monographs Joseph Conrad: Identity and Betrayal (Macmillan, 1992), Cross-Cultural Encounters in Joseph Conrad’s Malay Fiction (Macmillan, 2000), and Conrad’s Secrets (forthcoming); the co-edited collections Ford Madox Ford: A Reappraisal (with Tony Davenport, 2002), and Ford Madox Ford and Modernity (with Max Saunders, 2003); and various Penguin editions, he has had a long involvement in contemporary poetry as both a critic and practitioner. He co-edited The New British poetries (with Peter Barry, 1993) and Frank O’Hara Now (with Will Montgomery, 2010).  His own poetry has been published since the 1970s. Stride published Assembled Fugitives: Selected Poems, 1973-1998 in 2001, and Shearsman re-published his long poem Seaport in 2008. His most recent poetry publication is the sequence an explanation of colours, which was published by Veer in 2010.

Professor Adam Roberts, MA (Aberdeen), PhD (Camb): His main research interests are in nineteenth-century literature (particularly poetry), Science Fiction, postmodernism and Creative Writing. He is the author of Robert Browning Revisited (Twayne, 1997), Silk and Potatoes: Postwar Arthurian Fantasy (Rodopi, 1998), Science Fiction (Routledge 2000), Fredric Jameson (Routledge New Critical Idiom, 2000) and Victorian Culture and Society: the Essential Glossary (Arnold/Hodder). He edited The Oxford Authors: Robert Browning (Oxford University Press, 1997) and The Oxford Authors: Tennyson (Oxford University Press, 2000). He has published many novels as well as a number of other works including the parodies The Soddit (Gollancz, 2003) and The Sellamillion (Gollancz, 2004).

Dr. Douglas Cowie, BA (Colgate University, New York) MA, PHD (University of East Anglia), is primarily a fiction writer. He is the author of a novel, Owen Noone and the Marauder (Canongate, 2005) and most recently, an essay on John McGahern (Journal of the Short Story in English, 2009). His main literary interest is American poetry and fiction of the 20th Century, in particular the work of Nelson Algren. He also has an interest in the history of Germany, in particular the history of the German Democratic Republic.


Professor Ben Markovits, BA (Yale), MPhil (Oxford) has published five novels, The Syme Papers (Faber, 2004), Either Side of Winter (Faber, 2005), Imposture (Faber, 2007), A Quiet Adjustment (Faber, 2008), and Playing Days (Faber, 2010), a novel about the world of minor league basketball. Childish Loves (Faber, 2011), the final novel in his trilogy about Lord Byron (which includes Imposture and A Quiet Adjustment) will be published in August. He was awarded a fellowship to the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies in 2009, and won a Pushcart Prize for his short story 'Another, Sad, Bizarre Chapter in Human History'. He has published essays, stories, poetry and reviews on subjects ranging from the Romantics to American sports in The Guardian, Granta, Slate, The Paris Review, and The New York Times, among other publications.

Dr Redell Olsen's, BA (Camb), MA (Staffs), PhD (London), publications include: ‘Book of the Fur’ (Rempress, 2000), ‘Secure Portable Space’ (Reality Street, 2004) and the collaboratively edited ‘Here Are My Instructions’ (Gefn Press, 2004). She is the editor of the online journal How2 which publishes modernist and innovative poetry and poetics by women writers. Recent work is available in ‘Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets’ (Shearsman, 2010) and ‘I’ll Drown My Book: ‘Conceptual Writing by Women” (Les Figues Press, 2011). Her recent projects have involved texts for performance and film and include: ‘Newe Booke of Copies’ (2009) and ‘Bucolic Picnic (or Toile de Jouy Camouflage)’ (2009). ‘The Lost Swimming Pool ‘; a site-specific collaboration was commissioned by the Creative Campus Initiative, June 2010. She has recently published articles on Frank O’Hara, Abigail Child and the relationship between contemporary poetics and the visual arts. She is a member of the RHUL poetics research group and a co-ordinator of POLYply reading series at the Centre for Creative Collaboration, University of London.  


Download specific Programme Information for 2015-16.

The general structure is pyramidal: in the foundation year students take ‘Introduction to Creative Writing,’ which is broadly focused and is intended to introduce them to a wide range of creative forms within fiction, poetry and playwriting. They also take the course 'Why Write?' designed to introduce them to a range of debates about the value and significance of creative writing, against which we expect them to test their own ideas. This prepares them for the choices they make at the intermediate level, where they select two literary forms they wish to specialise in, before taking one of those forms to honours level at stage three. It is generally recognised that creative writing develops best over longer periods rather than through intense development, and the course is designed to foster a three-year process of creative development and understanding in the students.

In the third year of the course, students build towards complete full-length creative works, offering a run of chapters of a novel, a sequence of poems or an hour-long play. This then prepares the way for work at MA level, which is the proper place for a full-length work to be submitted. Students in Year 3 also choose from a variety of Creative Writing Special Focus options.  Drawing on staff areas of interest and expertise, each of these options focuses on a particular mode of writing, genre, theme, issue or idea.  (Examples include:  Science Fiction, Memoir, Falling, Word and Image and Intertextuality.)  Students are encouraged to make creative work in relation to the option's focus, and to develop their writing practice in relation to wider contexts relevant to the contemporary writer.  This makes an important connection between the creative ambitions of the course and writing beyond the University.

There are also opportunities for students to study abroad during their time at Royal Holloway. Students wishing to take advantage of these opportunities should consult the relevant contacts in both departments.

Year 1 is a Foundation Year, in which Single Honours students study Poetry, the Novel, Shakespeare, and Medieval Literature and a foundation course 'Thinking as a Critic'.

Creative Writing

Students will take BOTH of the following courses:

  • CW1010: Introduction to Creative Writing (Fiction, Playwriting, Poetry)
  • CW1020: Why Write? The History and Theory of Creative Writing

Each of these courses is one unit in value, and will take the form of seminars/ workshops.  For information on these two courses please see the specific Programme Information for 2015-16.


Students will take the following courses, run as lectures/ seminars:

  • EN1107: Reorienting the Novel (one full unit)
  • EN1112: Introducing English Poetry (one half unit)
  • EN1011: Thinking as a Critic (one half unit)

For specific information on these courses see the Single Honours English page.

It will be necessary to pass ‘Introduction to Creative Writing’ and ‘Why Write?’ as well as the English units to proceed into the second year.

Please note that in the second year of your joint honours degree you will choose between studying EN1106 Shakespeare or EN1001 Medieval Literature in the English department.

Creative Writing:

Students will take TWO of the following options:

  • CW2010 Playwriting
  • CW2020 Fiction
  • CW2030 Poetry

All these courses are one unit in value, and will take the form of seminar/workshops. For information on these three courses please see the specific Programme Information for 2015-16.


Students must take ONE of the following whole English units:

  • EN2324: Debates in Contemporary Literature
  • EN2010: Renaissance Literature
  • EN2212: Victorian Literature
  • EN2213: Romantic Literature
  • EN2325: Modernist Literature
  • EN1106: Shakespeare or EN1001: Medieval

Students must in addition take TWO HALF UNITS from the range of English units offered. These can change from year to year. Click here for current course options.

N.B. In either their second or third year,  students must take the equivalent of one whole unit focusing on literature from 1550-1780 (i.e. Renaissance literature, excluding Shakespeare).

Creative Writing:

Students will take two (one in the Autumn term and one in the Spring term) of: 

  • CW3103: Creative Writing Special Focus

In addition, students will also take ONE of the following options for their Final Project in Creative Writing:

  • CW3010 Playwriting 2
  • CW3020 Fiction 2
  • CW3030 Poetry 2

These final projects are 1 unit in value and are taught through intensive one-to-one tutorials across the year. There is also a lecture series devoted to issues around professional practice and the generation of long-term projects.  For information on these courses please see the specific Programme Information for 2015-16.


Students must take ONE UNIT from the three following options:

  • EN3401: Dissertation
  • EN350X: Special Author Project
  • EN3XXX: Special Topic

Students must in addition take ONE UNIT from the range of whole or half-unit options. These can change from year to year. Click here for current course options.

N.B. In either their second or third year, students must take one half unit focussing on Medieval literature and the equivalent of one whole unit focusing on literature from 1550-1780 (i.e. Renaissance literature, excluding Shakespeare).





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