MA in Creative & Life Writing

  • Length
    1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
  • Department
    English and Comparative Literature

Course overview

This programme is designed to meet the needs of committed students who are interested in exploring and exploiting their own possibilities as writers, and in critically examining their own writing. It is unique in combining creative and life writing in a stimulating and enriching programme.

We examine relevant literary and cultural theory as well as the politics and practicalities of language and writing from the point of view of the writer.

Practitioner-led, the programme offers you the opportunity to work with a range of published writers who visit the College to give readings and lead workshops.

Visiting writers have included William Fiennes, Jackie Kay and Aminatta Forna.

Poetry Masterclasses have been led by Sharon Olds, Les Murray, Derek Walcott and C K Williams 

We also expect to draw fully upon London’s rich tradition as a converging point for culturally diverse literary practices.

Our graduates have gone on to have successful careers as writers and have won awards including the Guardian First Book Award, the Eric Gregory Award, the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, and the Dylan Thomas Prize. Two of our graduates (Ross Raisin and Evie Wyld) were recognised in Granta's Best of Young British Novelists 2013 list.

Explore the work of students currently enrolled on the programme in the Goldfish online journal.

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Maria Macdonald

Modules & structure

There are three main components of the Masters:

  • Creative and life writing workshops
  • Contemporary Contexts for Creative and Life Writing
  • One-to-one tutorials

There will be two core modules: a two-term workshop in creative and life writing, and a one-term Contemporary Contexts for Creative and Life Writing seminar module.

Workshop in Creative and Life Writing

All students attend this two and-a-half-hour compulsory workshop – part-time students attend in their first year. In the first term you will be encouraged to experiment with a variety of genres in creative and life writing, and then in the second term to develop your individual interests in poetry, fiction, autobiography and biography, or perhaps a fusion of those genres.

Each term you submit a piece of your own writing together with a critical account of how you have structured and developed it. Presentations of your work to other students with an account of your aims and approaches form an additional important element.

Some workshops will be taken by visiting writers, introducing you to a range of practices, concerns and techniques. The workshop also enables you to debate issues raised in the Contemporary Contexts module in relation to your own practice.

Contemporary Contexts for Creative and Life Writing

This is a two-hour seminar module, made up of informal talks by visiting speakers, followed by a seminar. These talks might be by practising writers, biographers, critics or philosophers (from both outside and inside Goldsmiths).

Our notable visitors have included Ali Smith, A L Kennedy, Daljit Nagra and Jon McGregor. Wide-ranging topics have included: the role of the writer and politics; writing the self; the relationship between contemporary fiction and biography; the relationship between fictional and non-fictional autobiography; writers and their readers; the publishing world; contemporary ideas about language; gender and writing.

In both the Contemporary Contexts module and the workshops you will be asked to consider works by significant contemporary writers in relation to your own writing practice. Assessment is by a critical essay on a writer or literary issue. Full-time students take the Contemporary Contexts module in their first term and part-time students in their second year.

Tutorials will be offered at regular intervals during the year (12 in all).


You also choose an option module lasting one term. Full-time students take the module in the second term, while part-time students take it in the second year (second term). You can choose from a specialist workshop in fiction, poetry or life writing, or an option from the list of MA options offered by ECL including topics such as European Avant-Garde, Postmodernist Fiction or Re-writing Sexualities.


Assessment is by the submission of four pieces of writing of 5,000 words each – either an essay, or, for workshops, a piece or pieces of creative or life-writing – plus a critical account of how you have structured and developed your work. You will also be assessed on a portfolio (maximum of 20,000 words) containing a piece or pieces of creative or life-writing together with a critical account of how you have structured and developed your work. In all cases, the number of words applies to prose. 

Download the programme specification for this degree to find out more about what you'll learn and how you'll be taught and assessed.

Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.


English at Goldsmiths is ranked:
18th in the UK for the quality of our research**
In the world’s top 150 universities for English language and literature***

English and Comparative Literature

Cervantes. Bukowski. Dostoevsky. Self. From classical literature and linguistics, to creative writing and contemporary fiction, we take a critical and creative approach to the discipline.

As a department we’re interested in a field of enquiry that extends from Old English to 21st-century literatures in English, French, Spanish and Italian. So you can study texts and films across a variety of periods and genres.

We’re engaged

We have a dedicated Writers’ Centre that encourages new writing and stimulates debate about all forms of literature. And we award the annual Goldsmiths Prize (for “fiction at its most novel”), which brings critically acclaimed writers like Ali Smith and Eimear McBride to campus.

We’re nurturing

We may be one of the largest departments at Goldsmiths but that doesn’t mean you won’t get personal support. Learn from our approachable team of academic staff and become part of the student-run English Society.

We’re vibrant

As one of the first departments in the UK to offer creative writing, you’ll be part of a hub of literary excellence – our graduates have gone on to win prestigious awards from the Orange Prize for Fiction to the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year.

Find out more about the Department of English and Comparative Literature

**Research Excellence Framework 2014, Times Higher Education research intensity subject rankings
***QS World University Rankings by subject 2015


Staff who contribute to the programme include:

Maura Dooley – Poet and Programme Co-ordinator for the MA

Maura has published six collections of poetry, including ‘Kissing a Bone’, and recently ‘Life Under Water’ (2008) both of which were shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize. Maura is also an anthologist, has worked as a script consultant and been involved in numerous initiatives to enhance the profile of poetry in the United Kingdom.

Stephen Knight – poet, novelist and theatre director

His poetry publications include ‘Flowering Limbs’, ‘The Sandfields Baudelaire’, ‘Dream City Cinema’, and, for children, ‘Sardines and Other Poems’. He has published the novel, ‘Mr Schnitzel’ in 2000, and an anthology, ‘I Am Twenty People’, edited with Mimi Khalvati. His fiction and poetry reviews have appeared in the ‘Times Literary Supplement’ and the ‘Independent on Sunday’.

Francis Spufford – novelist and anthologist

Francis produced an anthology of literature about the poles, ‘The Ends of the Earth’ (with Elizabeth Kolbert), and he is the author of ‘The Child That Books Built’, ‘The Backroom Boys’ and ‘Red Plenty’.

Ardashir Vakil – novelist and short story writer

His first novel, ‘Beach Boy’, won a Betty Trask Award, was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and has been translated into 10 languages. His second novel, ‘One Day’, was shortlisted for the Encore Award.

Associate Tutors include:

  • Romesh Gunesekera
  • Pamela Johnson
  • Eva Salzman
  • Nick Drake

Find out more about staff in the Department of English and Comparative Literature.


Student work

You can explore the work of students currently enrolled on the programme in the Goldfish online journal. Other examples include:

Derek Adams

Breton and Soupault, 1930

André writes, he does not stop,
words bubble from the depths, his pen
erupts with images he can’t contain:
awake two days, two nights, the clock
no longer signifies a thing
its tic tic rhythm - crazy jazz -
synchronises a second hand with his.

Philippe’s eyes wide, his synapse sing
of chess pieces De Sade has bound,
surprising beasts and magnetic waves,
whose shapes appear and go to ground.
The pen nib screeches on the page,
thoughts run before its baying hounds:
words drop exhausted where they may.


Elly Parsons


Driving Music

The radio survived the blow
but stuck, like spinning wheels in snow,
on Lennon’s eternal tone, so
this is Christmas / what have you done?



As I hear the laugh of another girl
enter my silent kingdom,
I stand my ground, iron your pants
and imagine you’re in them.


Family Treasure

My Grandfather is writing a directory
of Corporation Rubbish Tips.
When he dies, which he will,
I hope I don’t inherit it.

Skills & careers


Graduates of this programme include Tom Lee, Lucy Caldwell, Ross Raisin, Amy Sackville, Rohan Kriwaczek, Evie WyldSara GrantNaomi Foyle, Bronia Kita, Lijia Zhang, Ashley Dartnell and Suzanne Joinson and the poets Emily Berry, Andy Spragg, Kate Potts, Jack Underwood, Abigail Parry, Anthony Joseph, Katrina Naomi and Matthew Gregory.

Among them they've won or been shortlisted for awards including The Sunday Times/EFG Private Bank Short Story Award 2012, the Rooney Prize for Literature 2011, the 2008 and 2011 Dylan Thomas Prize, several Eric Gregory Awards, The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award 2009, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize 2009 and 2010, the Guardian First Book Award, the New Writing Ventures Prize, and several Betty Trask Awards.

Other graduates have gone on to work in publishing (for example, as senior commissioning editors), journalism, public relations, teaching, advertising, the civil service, business, industry, and the media.


The MA will enable you to develop transferable skills, including: enhanced communication and discussion skills in written and oral contexts; the ability to analyse and evaluate different textual materials; the ability to organise information, and to assimilate and evaluate competing arguments.

Find out more about employability at Goldsmiths


Amy Sackville

Amy's first novel was awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for the best work of literature by a writer under 35. 

Amy Sackville studied at Leeds and Oxford before taking an MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths in 2008.

Her first novel, The Still Point, was published in January 2010 by Portobello Books. It was awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for a work of literature by a writer under 35, and was also long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Dylan Thomas Prize. Her second novel, Orkney, was published by Granta Books in spring 2013.

Bronia Kita

Bronia is currently working on her third novel, despite not yet having finished the second, in the hope of fooling the ‘difficult second novel’ jinx.

Bronia Kita completed her MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths in 2006. Her first novel, The Swansong of Wilbur McCrum, was published in 2009, and she is currently working on her third, despite not yet having finished the second, in the hope of fooling the ‘difficult second novel’ jinx.

She also writes stories, one of which – ‘White Chrysanthemums’ – was published in Brought to Book, an anthology of Ian St James Award winners. She teaches creative writing to children of primary school age.

Evie Wyld

MA Creative and Life Writing graduate Evie Wyld is an award-winning novelist. She has previously won Australia's biggest literary prize.  

In 2010 Evie was listed by The Daily Telegraph as one of the twenty best British authors under the age of 40 for her first novel, After the Fire, A Still Small Voice, and she was also included on GRANTA’s 2013 list of the 20 best young writers; joining a host of illustrious former nominees including Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie, as well as fellow Goldsmiths graduate Ross Raisin. She has also been nominated for The Times Breakthrough Award. She has previously won Australia's biggest literary prize, the Miles Franklin Award, as well the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Award and the Encore Prize.

Why did you choose to come to Goldsmiths and what attracted you to the MA in Creative and Life Writing?
Goldsmiths is in a part of London that I have a great affection for. It still feels like it’s evolving - it’s so easy to get into central London from New Cross, and yet it feels a long way out. The course itself appealed because I wanted to be able to take writing seriously, something I found hard without time dedicated to it. I liked the idea of having a reading list that would mean coming across books I wouldn’t normally have picked up. Part of the joy of this is in working out what you like and what you don’t like and why. But most of all it was giving myself the dedicated time to write.

What are your fondest memories of your time at the university? Were you inspired by a particular class or lecturer?
My lecturer Stephen Knight was incredibly helpful and his advice still guides me today. He had a reputation as being quite hard on students’ work, and a few times he told me that what I was doing was baffling, and he was completely right. I think one of the most valuable things to learn - which Goldsmiths really helped me to discover - is when you’re writing well, and when you think you’re sounding like a writer - two very different things, and accepting that you’re going to write some total crap is all part of learning. Maura Dooley was another lecturer who helped me immensely. She is generally thought of by all who meet her as a golden god. Calm and very kind, I remember she made the entrance interview a lovely thing to undertake rather than a moment of horror.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t think so much about the finished project. In fact don’t aspire to be a writer - write because you love the writing. The moment you think of yourself as a writer or as someone who is writing a book, you’re in danger of not seeing the work clearly. This is not a place to go seeking money, and once you’re fine with that ignore the people who talk about ‘getting work out there’. There is absolutely no hurry.

How do you approach the process of writing a novel?
So far each one has been different. There’s nothing magic though. I’d say the most bizarre thing I’ve noticed recently with the very start of the third one, is that I’ve been talking to myself a lot more about it. Lots of whispered conversations in the bath. Other than that I’ll just have to sit down and start to write something. Stephen Knight let me in on his secret which is to write one sentence and then write another, which is some of the best advice I’ve ever been given.

Is working in a bookshop as romantic as it sounds? (Evie works at Review Bookshop in Peckham)
It is a job - a lovely job, I love the shop, I care deeply about its success, but I don’t sit there reading and feeling at peace with all things. Generally I’m fretting about how to sell more books. At times when I’m very tired and when I haven’t had much time to write I feel a bit like Bernard Black, but on the whole I keep this inside - I’m yet to chase anyone outside with a broom.

You’ve grown up and lived in South London for most of your life - what is it about the place that appeals?
Being from two places (London and Australia) means that I always feel a little homesick for somewhere, but Peckham is where my roots really are. I live in Tulse Hill now, and so I have Brixton down the road too. Brixton and Peckham have changed a huge amount in the past 20 years, sometimes it feels like a little too much for me. But they are a lot of fun, and I like living on a hill and being near Brockwell park, which is the best park. It just feels, as closely as anywhere I’ve ever lived, like home.

Blake Morrison

“It’s a thrill seeing young writers I’ve worked with at Goldsmiths have their books accepted.”

Blake Morrison is best known for his autobiographical works ‘And When Did You Last See Your Father?’ and ‘Things My Mother Never Told Me’, which redefined the memoir form. He has also written fiction, poetry, journalism, literary criticism and libretti, and has adapted plays for the stage. Blake has been a Professor at Goldsmiths since 2003 and is the director of the Goldsmiths Writers’ Centre.

You’ve been at Goldsmiths for ten years this year. What is about the place that has kept you here?

“Yes, it will be 10 years in October, but my relationship with Goldsmiths goes right back, to when I ran a poetry workshop at the College in my mid-twenties. I like the energy of the place, the iconoclasm, the willingness to take risks and try new things.”

You live in South London and some of your writing is based here. What is about this area that inspires you?

“I come from the North (Yorkshire) but settled south of the river (Blackheath). It took me a while to write directly about South London; the landscapes in my head were all Pennine landscapes. But you can’t live in a place for long and avoid writing about it, and the river especially has begun to flow into my poems and novels – the Thames barrier and the Millennium Dome have already featured, and the Shard will be there in my next book.”

Is there any advice that you give in your teaching that you wish you’d taken yourself?

“Have confidence. Go for it. And keep going. I spent 15 years doing a full-time job as a books editor, writing only in spare moments, on the side. I wish I’d put my own writing at the centre of things a little earlier.”

How has your writing changed over the years? In what way has being at Goldsmiths shaped this?

“Teaching writing to others inevitably makes you more aware of what you’re up to in your own work. That isn’t necessarily a good thing – self-consciousness can be a curse – but at best you work harder to correct your faults, to ‘fail better’ as Samuel Beckett put it. I’ve certainly learned things from students I’ve worked with and I’m grateful for that.”

When you were younger did you ever expect to be a published writer, and do you still get a kick from seeing your name in print? 

“I grew up in a middle-class family but it wasn’t a literary family and the idea of being a published writer seemed remote. So yes, it was a thrill to get my first poems published. That thrill hasn’t altogether gone away, to get a finished copy of a new book is always a big moment, but the bigger thrill these days is seeing young writers I’ve worked with at Goldsmiths have their books accepted.”

Lucy Caldwell

Award-winning author and playwright 

Lucy Caldwell was born in Belfast in 1981 and is a graduate of Queens' College, Cambridge and the Goldsmiths MA in Creative & Life Writing.

She is the author of three novels, Where They Were Missed (2006), which was completed during her MA, The Meeting Point (2011), which featured on BBC Radio 4's Book at Bedtime and was awarded the Dylan Thomas Prize, and All the Beggars Riding (2013).

Lucy's stage plays and radio dramas have won several awards and her short stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio.

In 2011 she was awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature for her body of work to date and in 2012 she was the recipient of a Major Individual Artist Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. She is currently working on her fourth novel and on her debut collection of short stories.

Entry requirements

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least second class standard in a relevant/related subject. 

You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level.

Equivalent qualifications
We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.

English language requirements
If English isn’t your first language, you’ll need to meet our English language requirements to study with us.

For this programme we require:

IELTS 7.0 (including 7.0 in the written test)

If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.

How to apply

You apply directly to Goldsmiths using our online application system. 

Before submitting your application you’ll need to have:

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments
  • The email address of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference
  • personal statement – this can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online
  • If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory)
  • You must also submit a portfolio of your creative or life writing with your application. Your portfolio should include two or three short stories, 20-30 poems or several extracts from a novel

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

When to apply

We accept applications from October for students wanting to start the following September. 

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place that is conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available.

If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an earlier application deadline. 

Selection process

Admission to many programmes is by interview, unless you live outside the UK. Occasionally, we'll make candidates an offer of a place on the basis of their application and qualifications alone.

Find out more about applying.

Fees & funding

Find out more about funding opportunities for home/EU applicants, or funding for international applicants. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

The Department of English and Comparative Literature sometimes offers fee waivers for this programme.

Find out more about tuition fees.

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