Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing

Key facts

Level: Undergraduate

Mode: Part-time

Duration: 2 years

Application deadlines: By 7.00pm GMT/BST on Thursday 8 March 2018 and Thursday 10 May 2018. 

Late applications are currently being accepted.  Late applications will be considered as they are received.


Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing

Since its inception in 1998, the Diploma in Creative Writing offers significant opportunities to explore and develop your skills across four major categories of literary activity: prose, poetry, drama and analytical reading. There will also be opportunities to specialise in an area of writing of your own choosing. 

This two-year course is structured around Saturday day schools (four per term) which last from 9.00am-5.00pm, and which are aimed at developing skills and opening each student’s work to the benefits of concentrated group discussion and analysis. The course commences on Saturday 29th September 2018.

The Diploma will immerse you in a diverse range of literary projects. Seminars, group discussions, one-to-one tutorials and small class sizes (about twenty students per year) provide a rich foundation from which you will discover your particular strengths as a writer.

Open evening Thursday 7 December 2017

There will be an Open Evening on Thursday 7 December 2017 at Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA from 6:30pm-8:30pm. You are invited to visit the Department, meet the Course Director, Dr John Ballam, and tutors, and discuss the course. If you would like to attend, please email ppaward@conted.ox.ac.uk.

What the course offers 

The Diploma aims to foster the writing skills of all its students. The value of group activity as a catalyst for the creative imagination is one of the central tenets of the course, and there will be ample opportunity for discussion of the theory of writing – with students, course tutors, day and summer school tutors, speakers, and visiting readers. At the same time, the course emphasizes the importance of individual voice and vision, and there is significant provision for one-to-one in-depth discussion of each student’s work.

At the basis of skill in writing is skill in reading and the associated development of the ability to consider and express the ways in which various kinds of writing work. Students practise these skills in a supportive but rigorous environment, encouraged by tutors experienced in sharing their own insights into the creative process, and in valuing and encouraging the creative insights of everyone in the group. Deliberately geared to breadth and experiment rather than to narrow specialisation, the Diploma seeks to capitalise on each student’s unique creativity.

Publication is one aim, among many, of most writers, and past students of the Diploma have had work accepted for publication during or after the period of their involvement with the course. A significant number of those who gain the Diploma have gone on to take MAs in creative writing at universities such as East Anglia, Warwick, Middlesex and Bath Spa, and more recently, have been accepted onto Oxford University’s Master of Studies in Creative Writing.

A central aim of the course is that students, by the end of the two years, will have developed their creative writing skills to an appreciable degree, and will have gained a clearer perspective on their own creative abilities and the ways in which they may want to pursue them. Students who gain the Diploma should also be better equipped to make useful judgements about the work of other writers, and how it relates to their own.

Who should apply

Formal qualifications are not essential. Students come from many backgrounds and range in age from their twenties to their seventies. Some have previous experience of literary study; all show evidence of prior activity (though not necessarily of publication) as a creative writer.

We look for evidence of a high level of commitment; an awareness of literary ideas and a degree of articulacy in discussing them; and a capacity for intellectual and imaginative development.

If you apply, you will be asked to submit a small portfolio of your own work. Admission is selective, and would be based on your portfolio and an interview.

Course structure

The course, built around four day-long Saturdays per term, offers a rich combination of workshop seminars, individual tutorials (by arrangement with tutors, twice termly, each lasting for 45 minutes). A once-per-term Sunday dayschool will be paired with the regular Saturday meeting. There is one six-day summer school (residence possible) at the end of the first year of study, in June.  


The first term provides an introduction to the three main genres: prose, poetry and drama. From the outset there are opportunities to engage in practical activity and wide-ranging group discussion of aims, techniques and issues.

The second term makes a start on refining and developing analytical skills with three weeks of Reading for Writers, followed by seven weeks of close attention to the structures and approaches of Prose Fiction. The third term concentrates on how to address the challenges of writing Poetry and Stage Drama.  

The aim of the year is to consolidate and broaden the developments in skill, confidence and analytical ability that will have accrued in Year 1. Term 4 provides in-depth concentration on short and long fiction, while term 5 focuses on advanced Reading for Writers (three weeks) and further high-level consideration of the craft of poetry. Term 6 gives students up-to-the-minute experience of how to write Broadcast Drama.


Tutorials offer unrivalled opportunity for focused, developmental discussion of work in process. Their one-to-one nature ensures full concentration on the strengths of each student’s work as well as on areas which may need improvement. Tutorials centre on work produced in relation to the genres studied during that term. This means that as early as Term 1 students have considerable freedom of choice to write on prose, poetry or drama (though you should expect to write on more than one category in that term).

Space for specialisation

At the end of both years you will be given the opportunity to concentrate more extensively on your own preferred area of interest, through the production of a portfolio of around 6,000 words in the case of prose and drama, or around 200 lines of poetry. Your second-year portfolio is allocated four term weeks for concentrated attention, and is guided by a preliminary tutorial discussion of the content you are proposing, and a review tutorial on completion of the project.

Day schools

The six day schools in terms 1 to 6 introduce, through visiting readers, speakers, and tutors, a wide range of voices to counterpoint and amplify insights and opinions provided by members of the Diploma’s teaching team. There are readings by, and discussions with, well-known writers from all genres, as well as related workshop sessions. These day schools occur once per term, on a Sunday adjacent to the regularly scheduled Saturday classes.

Summer school

The Summer school is a vibrant culmination to your first year of study.  Sessions for the whole group will be balanced by individual sessions which allow you to focus on areas of your own choice. There is time set aside for your uninterrupted writing, and guidance will be given, as a group and individually, about how best to focus your efforts during the summer vacation so that you can get the most out of your second year. The summer school provides an unparalleled opportunity to concentrate as fully as possible on living and working your craft. Although it is largely non-residential, you may book accommodation, subject to availability.

The summer school is an integral part of the course and included in the course fee. It starts at lunchtime on Saturday, 22 June 2019 and finishes at lunchtime on Friday, 28 June 2019. From Sunday, each morning begins at 9.30am and continues (except on 17 June) to 7pm, with breaks for tea/coffee and lunch. All students are expected to attend the summer school dinner on Thursday, 27 June 2019.

Calendar for year 1

The Saturday seminars will be held from 9:00am-5:00pm at Ewert House, Ewert Place, Summertown, Oxford, OX2 7DD.

Michaelmas Term 2018

  • Introductions: 29 September 2018
  • Life-Writing: 6 October 2018
  • Poetry: 27 October 2018
  • Day School on Sunday, 28 October 2018
  • Drama: 17 November 2018

Hilary Term 2019

  • Reading for Writers: 12 January 2019
  • Fiction: 2 February 2019
  • Fiction: 16 February 2019
  • Fiction: 2 March 2019
  • Day School on Sunday, 3 March 2019

Trinity Term 2019

  • Poetry: 13 April 2019
  • Poetry: 11 May 2019
  • Drama: 25 May 2019
  • Day School on Sunday, 26 May 2019
  • Drama: 15 June 2019

Summer School

  • Saturday 22 June - Friday 28 June 2019

The academic qualification

Students who successfully complete this two-year course will be awarded the Oxford University Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing.

The course carries 120 CATS points at second-year undergraduate level (FHEQ Level 5) in the Department’s Qualifications and Credit Framework. These credit points are widely recognised as credit for transfer to other Higher Education institutions, including the Open University. Opportunities vary for the transfer of credit, so students who are considering taking this course for this reason are advised to discuss the possibilities with the Department’s Registry on 01865 280355.


Assessment will be based on:

Two pieces of writing submitted each term. These are tied to that term’s seminar activities, and are each expected to be about 2,000 words in prose, 15 pages of drama, or about 100 lines in the case of poetry. 

The end-of-year portfolio submissions will be around three times this length. Please bear in mind that you are likely to have to devote a considerable amount of time to your writing outside the framework of the timetabled sessions. As a general guide, you should be prepared to devote at least twelve hours a week to your writing outside the framework of the timetabled sessions.

If you have not recently been involved in assessment of this kind, do not regard it as a barrier. Tutors and other specialist staff will be happy to offer advice and guidance at any time during the course.

Course assignments are submitted online, and although the online submission system is straightforward and has step by step instructions, it does assume students have access to a pc and a sufficient level of computing experience and skill to upload their assignments.

At least 75% of the total number of seminar hours. Attendance is expected at all six-day schools and at the summer school.

IT requirements

Applicants should be familiar with the use of computers for purposes such as word-processing, using e-mail and searching the Internet.

This course uses the Department’s online assignment submission system. In order to prepare and submit your course assignments you will need access to the Internet. Students of this course may use the student computing facilities provided in Departmental buildings.


Course director

John Ballam, PhD
John Ballam is the author of two collections of poems, six stage plays, a novel and numerous reviews, articles and academic works. His best-known title is his memoir The Road to Harmony (1999; newest edn. 2013). He has been a contributing author to a series of business biographies for the prestigious Italian consortium Fondazione Istud. He is also an Associate Manager of AEI Entertainment (Hollywood) and a script consultant/screenwriter for several major film producers in Hollywood, London and Mumbai.

Course tutors include

Matthew Barton, BEd (Poetry) 

has published two collections of poetry, Learning to Row (Peterloo Poets 1999) and Vessel (Brodie Poets 2009), as well as editing and compiling an anthology for parents and children, The Winding Road (Hawthorn Press 2005). His next collection, to be published by Shoestring Press, is currently in preparation. Previously a tutor for many years on Bristol University’s Diploma in Creative Writing, he has also worked extensively as a teacher of creative writing in prisons, schools and other settings. Awards for his work include an Art’s Council Writer’s Award and a Hawthornden Fellowship. He was twice winner of the BBC Wildlife Poet of the Year award, won second prize in the National Poetry Competition, and most recently won joint second prize in the Hippocrates Award for poetry and medicine.

Patrick Collins (Drama (Stage))

is an award-winning writer of some twenty-five works for the stage, ranging from commissioned large-scale community plays to, predominantly, those created for presentation in venues other than designated theatres.  Among his teaching involvements, he ran Creative Writing sessions for a four-year period at Aylesbury’s Queens Park Arts Centre, deputised as Buckinghamshire’s County Writer-in-Residence in 1995, mentored, through Southern Arts, two Milton Keynes based authors working on theatrical texts, and he was writing tutor for Ithica’s Inter-Generational project in Windsor in 2000.  He has founded and directed four stage companies, the current one of which - Broken Lace - exists to workshop texts-in-progress by new, exploratory, dramatists.

Frank Egerton, BA (Fiction) 

studied English at Keble College, Oxford, and from 1995 to 2008 reviewed fiction for publications that included The Times, TLS and Financial Times. He is interested in both the close examination of fiction and how recent technologies such as ebooks and print-on-demand are changing the publishing industry and offering fresh opportunities to writers. He is a member of the Society of Authors and AWP, and is a former editor of the Oxford Writer. He was chair of Writers in Oxford from 2008 to 2010. His first novel The Lock was published in paperback in 2003, the ebook version having been an Independent e-Book Awards finalist in Santa Barbara in 2002. His second novel Invisible was published in 2010. He recently founded the micro-publishing imprint StreetBooks, and in 2013 published A Conscious Englishman by Margaret Keeping. He is working on his third novel, entitled Multitrack. Website: www.frankegerton.com;  blog: www.justthoughtsnstuff.com.

Beatrice Hitchman, BA, MA, MA (Short fiction)

read English and French at Edinburgh University and then completed an MA in Comparative Literature. After a stint in France, she returned to the UK to work as a film editor, also writing and directing short films which have been screened at festivals worldwide. In 2009 she graduated from the Bath Spa MA in Creative Writing, winning the Greene & Heaton Prize for Best Novel. Her debut novel, Petite Mort, was published by Serpent’s Tail in 2013. It has been longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Authors’ Club First Novel Prize, and adapted on Radio 4 Woman’s Hour as a ten-part serial starring Honor Blackman. She has a special interest in the short form and its development in the current era of publishing: her short fiction has appeared in journals and magazines including Stylist and Chroma Literary Journal.

Jeremy Hughes, BA, MSt (Oxon) (Long Fiction) 

has published two novels, Dovetail (2011) and Wingspan (2013). He was awarded first prize in the Poetry Wales competition and his poetry was short-listed for an Eric Gregory Award. He has published two pamphlets - Breathing For All My Birds (2000) and The Woman Opposite (2004) - and has published poetry, short fiction, memoir and reviews widely in British and American magazines. He is a graduate of the Master’s in Creative Writing at Oxford.

Jenny Lewis, MA, MPhil (Poetry) 

published works include When I Became an Amazon (Iron Press 1996/ Bilingua, Russia 2002) and Fathom (Oxford Poets/ Carcanet 2007). Her plays for young people include Fat Pig – the Musical at the Leicester Haymarket Theatre, Me and My Dinosaur, at the Polka Theatre, London, Map of Stars, a poetry and rock musical for the Oxford Youth Theatre and a verse drama After Gilgamesh, for Pegasus Theatre, Oxford, published by Mulfran Press in 2011. Mulfran Press also published her pamphlet of poems in English and Arabic, with the Iraqi poet, Adnan al Sayegh, Now as Then, in April 2013. Her next collection, Taking Mesopotamia, is forthcoming from Oxford Poets/ Carcanet, in March 2014. She teaches poetry and verse drama at Oxford University and is a Writing Tutor at Pegasus Theatre, Oxford where she is currently working as dramaturg on the April 2014 production Stories for Survival: a Re-telling of the Arabian Nights.

Shaun McCarthy, BA, MA, PGCE

is a playwright, mainly for for stage and radio though he has a feature film script optioned. His thirteen professionally produced stage plays have been performed by numerous theatres and touring companies in the UK. He currently runs his own production company, Hooligan Theatre Productions. Recent stage productions include ‘The Hooligan Nights’ (Redgrave Theatre Bristol 2014), ‘Collider’ (Old Fire Station Oxford 2015) and ‘Scrumpy and Western, a musical’ (co-written, produced by Hooligan Theatre Productions 2015). He has taught many short and part-time courses in writing for performance and Oxford and Bristol universities and is a is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow.

Robert Ritter, BA, DPhil (Reading for Writers) 

is the author of several editorial reference works, including the Oxford Style Manual; he has been a contributor to many books on printing and publishing. His scholarly interest lies in the mediation and dissemination of literature, and its effects on the creative process. He teaches topics in English language and literature at Oxford; previously he spent twenty years as an editor in New York and Oxford. Robert has an honours degree in English and Creative Writing, and a DPhil in English Language and Literature. He is also a communications consultant and director of Oxford Style Ltd.   

Student support and study skills

The course team will provide both academic and pastoral support to students on the course, including guidance on the development of effective study skills for students returning to study after a break. Additional support is available at a Departmental level by the Widening Access Assistant, who can be contacted on +44(0)1865 280355 or via email at student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk.

Before the start of the Michaelmas (autumn) term, we offer an ‘Award-Bearing Course Preparation Study Day’ focusing on Academic Reading and Writing, which is free for students enrolled on our Award-Bearing courses. Students gain the confidence to read and follow academic assignment instructions and to respond to essay questions; and it discusses how to manage your time effectively, and how to locate and cite sources.

The Department also runs a programme of Study Skills workshops and weekly classes (available at a reduced rate to current students), which are designed to enable you to develop and improve the skills needed for effective study. If you have any questions about ‘Award-Bearing Course Preparation Study Day’ or any Study Skills course, please email ppweekly@conted.ox.ac.uk or telephone +44(0)1865 280892.

Non-EU students

This course is not suitable for non-EU students who do not already live in the UK before the course begins. For information, refer to www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration.


English language ability

English is the language of instruction for all courses offered at Oxford. You must submit evidence that you meet the University’s English language requirements for your course if your first language is not English, or if your first language is English but you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country recognised by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). List: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America.

You do not need to submit test results, or request a waiver, if your first language is English and you have always been a resident and citizen of the UK, Ireland or any other majority English-speaking country (see list above).

Score Requirements (Standard Level)

The University only accepts certain standardised tests with results at or above the following scores. Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. The score requirements in each test are as follows:

  • IELTS Academic (Institution Code: 0713): overall score of 7.0 (with at least 6.5 in each of the four components).

  • TOEFL iBT (Institution code: 0490): overall score of 100 with component scores of at least: Listening 22, Reading 24, Speaking 25, and Writing 24.

  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): Overall score of at least 185, with a minimum of 176 per component.

  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE): Overall score of at least 185 with a minimum of 176 per component.

Asking for a waiver of the requirement

Exemptions from this requirement may be waived if you have completed, or are currently completing, a degree-level course that is full-time, at least 9 months and undertaken at a recognised institution where teaching and assessment throughout the course is entirely in English.

Please click here for further information.


The fee for 2018-2019 is

  • £2,575 (Home/EU students)
  • £4,470 (non-EU students)

You may pay by five monthly instalments or in one instalment. There is a non-refundable deposit of £200 required on acceptance of a place.

Your course fee includes all tuition, participation in the six day schools (including lunch) and, on a non-residential basis, the summer school. Lunches and the final dinner during the summer school are also included in the fee.

Accommodation, should you require it for the summer school, is not included in your tuition fee. It may be possible, space permitting, to book accommodation for that period at the going rate.

There will be a small fee increase for the second year of this course, 2019-2020.

How to apply

This is an intensive and challenging course, and you will need to consider carefully whether you can offer the high level of commitment required. In particular, you should note that you will be expected to work outside the framework of the timetabled sessions, and should be prepared to devote at least twelve hours a week to your writing.

For general enquiries, you should contact the Award Programme Office on 01865 280154 / 270369, email ppaward@conted.ox.ac.uk. If you have specific questions relating to your suitability for the course, please feel free to contact the Course Director, Dr John Ballam, at email address: john.ballam@conted.ox.ac.uk. 

Please use the apply button on this page to download the application form which includes a reference form (Appendix A). You should complete the reference form and send it to your referee, asking him/her to provide a reference by direct email to us. Please note that the reference is compulsory and we cannot consider your application without it.

Your referee should ideally be a person who can comment on your suitability for the course, and on any academic or writerly achievements. Where this is not appropriate, you should name a referee who can vouch for your motivation, commitment to writing, and potential for development. A reference from a family member is not acceptable.

Complete the rest of the application form and send it to the address below with the following additional materials:

  • an unstapled sample of your work: approximately 2000 words of prose fiction or dramatic dialogue; or about half a dozen poems
  • a statement of between 300 and 400 words explaining why you wish to enrol on the course.
  • Proof of your English Language Ability if you are a non-native English-speaking applicant.

Please do not submit any documentation outside of the above items unless asked to do so. Please do not exceed the portfolio requirements.

Applications should be sent to:

The Award Programme Administrator
OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2JA 

Application deadlines

Thursday 8 March 2018 and Thursday 10 May 2018.

Late applications are currently being accepted.  Late applications will be considered as they are received.

Please note that no correspondence can be entered into should your application be unsuccessful.

Use the apply button on this page to download the application form.

Contact information

Course Director, Dr John Ballam 01865 280898 john.ballam@conted.ox.ac.uk
If you need specific advice on your suitability for the course before making your application.

Award Programme Office 01865 280154 / 270369
For queries on applications and admissions ppaward@conted.ox.ac.uk

Student Advice 01865 280355
For general guidance and advice, credit transfer, special needs provision, residential category and sources of funding: registry@conted.ox.ac.uk

Study Skills 01865 280892
For information about Study Skills courses: studyskills@conted.ox.ac.uk



MSt in Creative Writing

A two-year, part-time master's offering a unique combination of high contact hours, genre specialization, and critical and creative breadth.

Terms and conditions

Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course

Sources of funding

Information on financial support