Creative Writing PhD (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)

The PhD in Creative Writing at Birmingham aims to support you in the development of a long-form piece of creative writing (for example, a novel or a script), or a sequence of related works (poems and short stories).

You will be working in an environment which supports and encourages the development of craft and participation within a community of writers and scholars.

Here at Birmingham we are in a unique position: Creative Writing is aligned to both the Film department and the English literature and language divisions. The PhD is part of a portfolio of creative writing courses which have a strong reputation. 

Rachel New

Rachel New

“The best things about the course are the people. The lecturers in the department offer a wide range of multi-disciplinary skills and very different styles of working, which enriches the learning process. The opportunity to share and critique a wide range of work from within the group is very valuable. My writing output has gone up dramatically and the quality of my work has greatly improved”

You will outline, in detail, a specific creative project, for completion within 3 years (full-time), and will also be able to identify critical concerns and interests related to your creative practice.

The final submission is a document which is divided between the creative piece and a related critical document (the weightings are listed below).

PhD submission will usually entail:

For prose: a creative document (50 – 80%) of either long-form prose/novel, or a collection of short-form prose/stories supported by a critical paper (20–50%) of a similar length to a critical literary PhD submission (around 80,000 to 100,000 words)

For poetry: a creative document of collected poems or a single work with a developed critical thesis (around 50,000 words)

For scriptwriting (for film and live performance): a single project or a collection of multiple shorts should be of comparable length and commitment as the prose element, with a critical element between 20-50% of the overall submission.

Other creative formats (for example a script for a graphic novel) will follow the poetry or prose model, with a 20–50% split for the critical element.

The submission will be of publishable quality (meaning both elements, creative and critical, will be ready for submission to an editor / agent).

The creative and critical elements will entail considered independent research and development.  The creative document will be original work of significant, publishable quality which demonstrates an understanding of craft, genre, and form.  The critical document will present a structured and developed argument which demonstrates an awareness of context, and discuss, where relevant, critical and creative processes.

You can study an MA by Research or PhD programme on campus or by distance learning. Please note that if you are studying with us by distance learning, there is a compulsory annual visit to campus (every two years for part-time PhD students) - please see our frequently asked questions about distance learning to find out more.

At Birmingham you also have the option of studying languages, free of charge. Almost no other UK University offers you the opportunity to learn the intense graduate academic language skills which you may need to pursue your research.

Why study this course

  • You will be working with published writers in a thriving research-active environment across a range of disciplines, including poetry; short-story; novel writing; and screen-writing.
  • We also encourage new and diverse forms of writing and aim to develop craft, including research and editing skills, to support the creative project.  The course team are experienced in helping you to theorise your approaches to your writing and research processes. 
  • Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham takes place within a community of writers and scholars, which includes active researchers in all areas and disciplines.  There are a number of presentations and events staged by the School and by the Creative Writing team, alongside a vibrant arts and writing community in Birmingham City and the West Midlands. 
  •  We encourage our students, at all levels, to be active within the university and the broader community, and to participate in readings, festivals, and events, both regionally and nationally.
  • The research degree is of value for writers who wish to engage with research in academia, for preparation for teaching in Higher Education, and offers dedicated time and support to complete a significant creative project.
  •  The department celebrated excellent Research Assessment Exercise 2014 results. 34% of research at the University of Birmingham for English Language and Literature was top 4* rated ‘world-leading’. A further 53% was rated 3* ‘internationally excellent’.


Related staff

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2016/17:

  • Home / EU £4,110 full-time; £2,055 part-time*
  • Overseas: £13,680 full-time

For part-time students, the above fee quoted is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

* For UK/EU postgraduate research students the University fee level is set at Research Council rates and as such is subject to change. The final fee will be announced by Research Councils UK in spring 2016.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuituion fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To be eligible for these awards, candidates must hold either an offer of a place to study or have submitted an application to study at the University. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Entry requirements

Learn more about entry requirements

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Before you make your application

Please refer to our six step process on applying for PhD, MA by Research and MRes opportunities for Arts subject areas.

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Additional Guidance for applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode.

Making your application


We can only consider applications from applicants who have successfully completed an MA in Creative Writing, or candidates who can demonstrate composite professional experience (which includes publishing). For the PhD, you must demonstrate how the research project relates to your current creative practice.

For the application we require:

  • a detailed outline describing the planned creative project
  • an outline of the potential critical enquiry and how it relates to the creative project (this can be less detailed than the description of the creative project)
  • a statement about your reasons for considering a research degree
  • examples of creative work
  • a short resume or CV
  • two references from people who are familiar with both your creative and critical abilities

The application will be reviewed by the department in several stages. If there is an interested and available supervisor we will ask you form an interview, which can happen online.

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

Research interests include:

Fiction and film - Contact: Dr Richard House

Tel: +44 (0)121 414 7964; Email:

Fiction - Contact: Dr. Daniel Vyleta.

Telephone +44 (0)121 41 46555; Email

Poetry - Contact: Dr Luke Kennard

Tel: +44 (0)121 414 8424; Email:

The short story; editing theory and practice; cross-disciplinary models of authorship; writing as translation and adaptation; autobiographical and biographical poetry - Contact: Dr Elsa Braekkan Payne

Tel: +44 (0)121 414 3677; Email:

The University of Birmingham has been ranked 8th in the UK and 60th in the world, for post-qualification employability in the latest global survey of universities commissioned by the International Herald Tribune.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School.

Over the past five years, over 95% of our English postgraduates have been in work and/or further study six months after graduation using the transferable skills gained in their postgraduate degree. Graduate occupations have included banking, the charity sector, education, higher education, local government, police, PR, and media.

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.


Coming to Birmingham to study might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.