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Creative Writing (Novels)  MA


At the end of the Creative Writing (Novels) MA course, you will be very different; you will have written a novel.

This course is designed to provide a supportive and thought-provoking, yet challenging, environment for novelists to develop their skills, experiment with approaches to writing, learn about the industry and, most importantly, complete a polished novel ready to send to publishers and agents.

At the core of the Creative Writing (Novels) course is the experience of established writers. Everyone who teaches on this MA course is a working, published novelist.

And we want to get you published. See our full list of our published alumni.

The MA Creative Writing (Novels) allows you to focus on one of two areas: Literary Novels or Crime Thriller Novels.

We offer you:

  • An ideal location - Last year over 10,000 novels were published in the UK, making London the world capital of publishing. Because we are London-based, students have access to a wide range of contemporary novelists and to significant agents and major publishers, find out more about our links to agents and publishers.
  • Top speakers - We regularly invite leading novelists to visit the University for informal Q&A sessions. In the last few years, this has included Lionel Shriver, A.M.Homes, Sarah Waters, Mohsin Hamid, Hilary Mantel, and Jonathan Coe; and in Crime Writing: Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Sophie Hannah, S.J.Bolton and Jake Arnott. View an update on our latest guest speakers.
  • Top tutors - All our students are mentored by leading novelists. Currently this includes Sadie Jones, Sarah Waters, Monica Ali, Julie Myerson, Evie Wyld and Joshua Ferris. See the full list of who is teaching this year.
  • Completion of a novel - Through a combination of workshops, intense and focused one-to-one tutorials, group discussions and Q&As, you will be encouraged and supported until your novel is written. Find out more detail on precisely how the programme is structured.

Watch this video for an insight into this course

Crime Thriller Writing course specialism

City University London is the first university in the UK to offer an MA which allows you to focus exclusively on Crime Thriller Writing.

This approach to the MA - as with our literary novelists - starts with workshops and seminars, and then builds to the completion of a full-length Crime Thriller novel. Our first cohort of students graduated in Autumn 2014.

We employ leading names in Crime and Thriller Writing to lead workshops and to serve as tutors and mentors. Current tutors include Claire McGowan, Laura Wilson, and William Ryan. View the full list of our Crime Thriller tutors. We also have strong links with editors and agents who specialise in crime writing and want to see your novel.

The Crime Thriller Writing course looks at all the key sub-genres from police procedurals to psychological thrillers, concentrating on how to craft a convincing plot, what creates contemporary suspense, and new ways to tackle new crimes.

The Crime Thriller genre is the most popular in the world. Sales of crime thriller fiction rose by 80% in the UK alone in the last decade. There is much talk that we are entering a second golden age of crime writing. At City University London, our unique course allows you to follow the same rigorous programme as the literary cohort, which has been specially adapted to help you create a crime novel that's ready for the market.

The Centre for English

Visit the Centre for English website for full details of the tutorial staff, the latest student success stories, our industry links, and much more.

Course Fees:

  • Full-time EU: £6,000
  • Full-time Non EU: £7,750

Start Date:

September 2016

How to Apply

Entry Requirements

You will usually have a Bachelor degree, in any subject. But successful completion of a certificate course in creative writing or relevant experience is equally acceptable. The prime criteria are proven writing ability and a commitment to devoting two years to completing a novel. You will be required to submit a sample of your writing and to attend an interview or (if overseas) to participate by telephone.

The writing sample should be 5,000 words at most.  Ideally it would be a section - probably the opening - of a novel, but it is equally acceptable if it is a short story. Shorter length pieces may also be submitted but as this is a course which focuses on writing a full-length novel (minimum 60,000 words), the more sustained the writing sample, the better.

English Requirements

For students whose first language is not English, an IELTS score of at least 7.0 is required (with 7.0 in the writing component).

Please note that due to changes in the UKVI's list of SELTs we are no longer able to accept TOEFL as evidence of English language for students who require a CAS as of April 2014.

Visa Requirements

If you are not from the European Economic Area / Switzerland and you are coming to study in the UK you may need to apply for a visa or entry clearance to come to the UK to study.  

The way that you apply may vary depending on the length of your course; there are different rules for:

  • Students on courses of more than 6 months
  • Students on courses of less than 6 months
  • Students on a pre-sessional English Language course

Please note: If you require a Tier 4 student visa to study in the UK, you cannot undertake any City University London courses on a part-time basis.

For more information see our main Visa page.

When and Where

Start Date:
September 2016
Two years full time

Course Content

The course is designed for writers with some experience who would now like to go the extra mile and complete a novel. We do not therefore teach or examine short stories. This is a course for people who want to write full-length novels.

Most importantly, every year, an anthology of excerpts from all the students' novels is published in the final term: this is presented in a showcase evening and then distributed to every literary agent in London and, for overseas students, the agents in their home cities, as well (in the recent past our anthology has been sent to New York, Toronto and Sydney).

The course encourages you to be ambitious and imaginative in your writing. This course focuses either on the Literary Novel or the Crime Thriller Novel (students must choose at the outset which they would like to focus on).  Within the field of Literary, there are many possible styles, approaches and forms; within Crime, everything from the police procedural to combat thriller, from psychological to cyber thriller, will be addressed.

Our ethos is excellence and diversity, with an emphasis on recruiting students of different ages and from a wide range of backgrounds.

In November 2011, The Guardian ranked City's Creative Writing MA in the top three writing courses in Britain (alongside UEA and Bath Spa).

After coming into contact with students on City's Creative Writing MA, I was extremely impressed both with their talent and their level of commitment. Standards are exceptionally high: I could immediately tell that I was dealing with writers of enormous potential, and that this potential was being fully recognised and encouraged by the tutors. I could hardly think of a better environment in which to hone the craft of writing.

Jonathan Coe, author of What A Carve Up! and The Rotters' Club

Course Structure


This is a two-year course. Each year consists of three ten-week terms.

During Terms 1 and 2, workshops, lectures and tutorials are held on two evenings a week. These are principally concerned with extending your skills, understanding of the novel form and awareness of creative possibilities; along with analysing the work of leading writers and exploring that work through a variety of exercises, all of which are designed to 'put aside your default writing style' and encourage you to experiment with all the other possible approaches to writing fiction.

All workshops are based round the students' own writing for assignments. We also closely analyse published novels: this isn't literary criticism, this involves taking apart novels as you might take apart a clock too see how it works. We aim to give students the confidence to start writing their novels in exactly the voice and structure which suits their story and story-telling abilities.

Throughout both years, there are Q&A sessions with visiting novelists - recently we have heard from Joshua Ferris, Stef Penney, Clare Clark, Justin Cartwright, Chris Cleave, Adam Thirlwell and Linda Grant.

In Terms 3, 4 and 5, you work principally on your own novel with the support of one-to-one tutorials and participation in student-led workshops. You are allocated two tutors: one from within the course team and one external tutor - often chosen to specifically suit the style or subject of your proposed novel. For each tutorial, you submit 10,000 words which is read and annotated in advance by the tutor - then discussed at length in the tutorial.

In Term 6 (the final term), the lectures and Q&As focus on visits from agents, publishers and other industry professionals. These sessions aim to provide you with knowledge and understanding of the publishing industry and of the business aspects of being a writer. They will also provide you with the skills and understanding necessary to promote a novel to the media and the public.

Most workshops and exercises take place in groups of approximately fourteen students.

Read the full programme specification.

Teaching and Assessment

Teaching on the Creative Writing (Novels) course is based around a mix of practical workshops, seminars and lectures.

All this is supported by one-to-one tutorials and by independent study: notably reading and preparing presentations on set texts and performing set writing exercises. As the course progresses, the emphasis shifts to independent study and is supported by workshops and one-to-one tutorials.

Central to all three Creative Writing MA courses is the requirement to finish a full-length novel, memoir, play or screenplay.

Read the full programme specification.


  • Full-time EU: £6,000
  • Full-time Non EU: £7,750

* The fees listed above are per year.


For up-to-date information about tuition fees, living costs and financial support, visit Postgraduate Fees and Finance.

Future Finance Loans

Future Finance offers students loans of between £2,500 and £40,000 to help cover tuition fees and living expenses. All students and courses are considered. All loans are subject to credit checks and approval for further details please visit the City Finance website.



An annual prize of £1,500 and agent representation is offered by a leading London literary agency.

Career Prospects

One of the core objectives of the programme is for you to leave with a finished novel, whether you select the Literary Novels or the Crime Thriller Novels focuses. You will be supported and helped with your writing throughout the programme and towards the end of the course we invite agents, publishers and industry professionals for guest lectures and Q&As.

The focus is on for you to finish a novel and use City’s unparalleled industry links to help start our literary career as a published novelist.

The course has helped several students become published across the world.

Getting published

Six years of students have now graduated from the MA and they have gone on to publish:

  • She Rises by Kate Worsley (Bloomsbury)
  • The Road To Wigan Pier Revisited by Stephen Armstrong (Constable)
  • The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow (Avon at Harper Collins)
  • Flight from Berlin by David John (Harper Collins)
  • The Dancing Boy by Ishani Kar-Purkayastha (Harper Collins India)
  • The Half-Slave by Trevor Bloom (Hookline)
  • The Drowning Pool by Syd Moore (Avon at Harper Collins)
  • Beautiful from This Angle by Maha Khan Phillips (Penguin India and Albin Michel, France).

To apply for an MA, you will usually need to submit:

  • An application form (either electronically or by post)
  • An explanation in no more than 200 words of why you think you would benefit from the course. It is essential that you state in your opening sentence whether you want to focus on Literary Novels or Crime Thriller Novels
  • A sample of your creative writing, suitable for the pathway you have chosen.

You will be required to submit a sample of their writing and to attend an interview or (if overseas) to participate by telephone.

The writing sample should be 5,000 words at most.  Ideally it would be a section - probably the opening - of a novel, but it is equally acceptable if it is a short story. Shorter-length pieces may also be submitted but, as this is a course which focuses on writing a full-length novel (minimum 60,000 words), the more sustained the writing sample, the better.

Apply online

Postal application

Please note: Academic references are not required when you submit your application. However, the admissions tutor may request them at a later date to help make a decision on your application.

Return address

Please return your application form and/or supporting documents, marked:

Postgraduate Applications 2016
Centre for Creative Writing
City University London
Northampton Square