Friday, July 5, 2013

Admissions process for MA Creative Writing at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland

Unique is a good way to describe the postgrad creative writing programme at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland. For a start, we put genre fiction front and centre in our course. If you love writing and reading science fiction, fantasy, crime or horror, most MFAs and MAs don't want to know - but we embrace great genre writing.

Another unique focus at Edinburgh Napier is comics and graphic novels, which most other programmes ignore. In fact, we love this medium so much we devote an entire module about it, Writing Graphic Fiction. [You don't have to be an artist to write comics, but a passion for collaboration helps.] We also specialise in creative non-fiction, applying the techniques for developing and writing a novel to a research-based narrative.

Edinburgh Napier's postgraduate creative writing MA does not offer a poetry option. I repeat, poetry is not a requirement. There are plenty of other great courses with brilliant poets on the faculty - if you want to study poetry, seek them out. We have had prize-winning poets as students on our programme, but we don't teach or critique poetry.

There are no peer review workshops in postgraduate creative writing classes at Edinburgh Napier. I repeat, no peer review workshops. This boggles the mind of some people, as such workshops are the bedrock of postgrad creative writing pretty much everywhere else. But we don't have peer review workshops in our classes. Yes, really.

We do set weekly writing assignments and expect you to bring the results to class. You're also expected to critically self-reflect on your work [with prompts from us], and to share that thinking. You'll receive professional editorial feedback, delivered in front of other students in a masterclass style. And you'll get six hours of one-to-one mentoring.

If that sounds enticing, here's how you apply for our course. Unsurprisingly, the admissions process we use to select students also seems to be unique to this programme...

First, you fill in and submit an application form [there are links for the online version top right of the blogroll on this page]. We welcome applicants who already have a degree [it doesn't have to be in English, English literature or some form of creative writing]. But we also recognise prior learning in people who don't  have a degree yet.

The crucial section of your application form is the personal statement. This is where you tell us about your journey as a writer so far, and why you want to come on our programme. Here's a hint: don't just paste in your usual personal statement. We always look to see if applicants have mentioned any of the unique elements on our course.

Do some research. There are links on this page to interviews we've given in the past about our ethos, our approach to  creative writing. Read other entries on this blog. If you want your application taken seriously, show us you've taken our course seriously. Plus: that statement is a first chance to showcase your writing. Blow our socks off!

All being well, we'll progress you to the next stage of our 3-step admissions process. We don't ask for a writing sample up front. Instead - if we like your application form - we'll invite you to take part in a writing challenge. We will ask you to write us an original short story of up to 1000 words, and you'll have two weeks to submit it.

To make this a challenge, we give you a choice of first sentences. You select one and use that as the opening for your story. We also let you decide when we send the brief, so you choose the two weeks for writing the story that best suit you. We even include the criteria we'll be using to assess your writing challenge submission.

Once you've sent us your story, we read and assess it. Some applicants get turned away at this stage [we take roughly one out of every five people who apply to our programme]. But if the story shows promise, we will invite you to a selection interview - either face to face, or via Skype if you live a long distance from Edinburgh.

The interview is the final stage of our admissions process. It can last up to an hour. During that time we use teaching and learning activities from our course to assess you as an applicants. But this process also gives you insight into our programme and how we teach it. The interview should be an enjoyable experience, not an interrogation!

We let you know within a day if we're offering you a place. We use a rolling admissions process, rather than stockpiling applications or making you wait months for a decision. Once we're full, we're full. Our MA takes a maximum of 16 full-time students a year, and up to four part-timers who study for two years to complete it.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch before you formally apply. Email programme leader Sam Kelly [her address is]. The class of 2013/14 is nearly full, and we have already offered places to several applicants for September 2014. The sooner you apply, the better your chances...