NOTE: This specification provides a concise summary of the main features of the course and the learning outcomes that a typical student might reasonably be expected to achieve and demonstrate if s/he takes advantage of the learning opportunities that are provided. More detail on the specific learning outcomes, indicative content and the teaching, learning and assessment methods of each module can be found (1) at http://www.bcu.ac.uk/pme, (2) in the Module Specifications and (3) in the Student Handbook.
The accuracy of the information contained in this document is reviewed by the University and may be checked within independent review processes undertaken by the Quality Assurance Agency.
Awarding Institution / Body:
Birmingham City University
Interim Awards and Final Award:
MA in Writing, in association with the National Academy of Writing
Main fields of Study:
Modes of Study:
Full-time (1 year) or Part-time (2 years)
Language of Study:
Relevant subject benchmark statements and other external reference points used to inform programme outcomes:
Creative Writing Research Benchmark Statement issued by the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) Higher Education Committee, October 2008
The NAWE Benchmark statement makes extensive use of QAA Benchmark statements for Art and Design (AD), Dance, Drama and Performance (DDP), and English (EN) and the AWP (AWP) Hallmarks.
Programme philosophy and aims The BCU MA in Writing, in association with the National Academy of Writing, is a one-year full-time or two-year, part-time, course aimed at emerging writers. The course is run and validated by Birmingham City University.
The MA in Writing follows the NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement guidelines for the Nature and Scope of Creative Writing Research, Research Methodologies, Research Degrees in Creative Writing and Measuring Creative Writing Research. The NAWE Benchmark document states that ‘Creative Writing is the study of writing … and its contexts through creative production and reflection on process.’, and this MA course follows the benchmark definition of Creative Writing research as ‘practice-led research’. Varieties of critical research are also undertaken in the Reading into Writing module. The course will offer the creative writer the opportunity to ‘undertake this research through the act of creating; that they will invest knowledge and understanding into this practice, and that they will develop their knowledge and understanding through their practice.’
The course is offered in association with the National Academy of Writing, an organisation set up by publishing writers with the philosophy that writers can benefit from the same kind of training enjoyed by actors, musicians, and visual artists. The terms of the association between the MA in Writing and NAW guarantee six Masterclass visits to BCU each year by the National Academy of Writing. These Masterclasses, pioneered by the NAW, are based on the Conservatoire model of music tuition and involve an expert public close-reading of a volunteered student text. The pedagogic understanding is that all aspiring writing professionals will face the same challenges and potential technical solutions. Points of interest and improvement in any one text will be relevant to all the student writers. National Academy of Writing patrons will also make regular visits to the course to give presentations on the craft of writing and the changing markets within the publishing industry.
To be admitted to the MA in Writing students must submit a sample of writing with their application forms, and arrange for two references to be sent in support of their application. If their work is of a suitable standard, they will be interviewed by MA tutors, normally including the Programme Director. Each year, introductory workshops will be held during the week preceding the start of formal seminar teaching.
There are two compulsory elements of the MA course: Reading into Writing and the Final Project. In addition, students must take any three out of five genre modules from Fiction, Creative Non-fiction, Screenwriting, Scripting and Staging, and 21st-Century Poetry. Normally, students will have undertaken one genre module before taking Reading into Writing. The Final Project involves an extended piece of work in a chosen genre, to be presented in a way relevant to a publisher, agent or producer. The Final Project also involves exploration of complementary professional development skills.
On the BCU MA in Writing students will receive taught modules run by BCU staff, National Academy of Writing Masterclasses, and visits by National Academy of Writing Patrons. Students will be expected to engage fully with the range of events and activities on offer. Every year, students will put together an anthology of work, launched and showcased at the Summer Show in June. It is expected that students will take a full and active part in this aspect of their professional development.
Explain the overall approach adopted by the programme and how it leads to the aims shown below
The BCU MA in Writing programme aims to provide learners with:
Publishable writing skills in one or more of the genre modules (Fiction, Screenwriting, Creative Non-fiction, Scripting and Staging, and 21st-Century Poetry). The Final Project allows these skills to be developed and demonstrated in a significant piece of sustained writing.
A critical awareness of the place of their own writing and the writing of others within contemporary genres, and the context and demands of those genres within the writing industry.
Advanced strategies for the research, planning and production of a consistent body of creative work.
An ability to learn from leading established practitioners
An ability to express an understanding of the creative process, their own and others, through critical appreciation of work by peers and established writers.
The ability through advanced creative practice and reflective criticism to understand how reading impacts on creative writing.
A good idea of achievable career aspirations and evidence of informed planning to reach defined goals.
Intended learning outcomes and the means by which they are achieved and demonstrated:
Knowledge and critical understanding of key genres, in relation to students own creative practice and the creative practice of peers and leading practitioners.
Control over structure, levels and functions of the English Language; appreciation of imaginative power, knowledge of relevant and precise critical terminology.
Ability to generate ideas and solutions independently and/or collaboratively; to employ convergent or divergent thinking in the process of observation and making; to select/test appropriate media; to manage interaction between intention, process and outcome
Awareness of professional context for creative writing and possible career opportunities.
Learning teaching, and assessment methods used Knowledge is gained from seminar presentations, seminar and tutorial discussion, masterclasses, and workshops. Masterclasses (close public readings of submitted texts) will be given by established writers from the National Academy of Writing. Students will examine the work of others, both published/produced and otherwise, and use this to inform their own writing. Workshops will involve peer-to-peer feedback on student work. One-to-one consultation and advice with tutors will also take place, and Moodle will be used as a teaching tool. Feedback from tutors will be given in written format, and in consultation sessions.
Formative assessment is provided for each module as indicated in the teaching and learning methods. Summative assessment is entirely by coursework. This includes creative writing of script or prose, and essays about the creative process (general as well as particular), influences etc. Modules provide a range of assessment types: analytical, discursive, creative.
Programme structure and requirements, levels, modules, credits and awards The structure of the course, the modules, levels and credit values, including ECTS credit values, and the awards which can be gained are shown in the diagram below.
Reading into Writing
Scripting and Staging*
* Students choose three out of five
The PG Cert (60 credits) will consist of either two genre modules or Reading into Writing plus one genre module
The PG Dip (120 credits) will consist of three genre modules plus Reading into Writing
Support for Learning including Personal Development Planning (PDP)
Students are encouraged to identify and, with guidance, to reflect on their own learning needs and are offered the following support as appropriate to meet those needs:
Course materials and Moodle resources support the module teaching, Masterclasses and NAW Patron Visits. Tutors are also available to answer queries via email, surface mail or telephone. Informal feedback and discussion of creative work takes place throughout the course, with peer feedback – both live and virtual - a particularly important element. Written feedback will be given on all assignments. The student handbook provides information on general and practical matters relating to course management. Students also have borrowing facilities at the University’s Kenrick Library.
Criteria for admission Candidates must satisfy the general admissions requirements of the programme, which are as follows:
It is expected that the majority of applicants will have a first degree and be able to demonstrate some experience of creative or professional writing, although talent, experience and a demonstrable commitment to development are the key criteria. To benefit fully from a writing course, students need to show an ability to take into account feedback on their work from tutors and fellow writers, and to function effectively in workshops and in supportive meetings between writers. Individual interviews with MA tutors are used to assess these capabilities.
Methods for evaluation and enhancement of quality and standards including listening and responding to views of students
The MA in Writing Board of Studies has overall responsibility for managing the course, and meets at least twice during each academic year. Responsibilities include policy-making, course development and course monitoring. The membership of the Board of Studies comprises the Programme Director, the Head of School, all teaching staff on the programme, and Student Representatives.
The MA in Writing Examinations Board has responsibility for all aspects of students' assessment and for the recommendation of students for awards, and the membership of the Examinations Board typically comprises the Head of School, all staff teaching on the course, and External Examiners.
The external examiner will approve coursework assignments and assessment criteria, monitor standards through moderation of completed assessments, attend Examination Boards, and participate in the review and validation processes.
Other mechanisms for review and evaluation of the course include annual course monitoring, peer appraisal of teaching, external examiners’ reports, student feedback on learning from elected student representatives, staff feedback on teaching, and an annual Staff Individual Performance Review.
1 Guidance on the specification of learning outcomes is available from the Centre for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching.