This Creative Writing PhD has a reputation as one of the UK's leading doctoral programmes.
- Taught by teams of published creative writers and literary scholars.
- Staff have expertise in fiction, poetry, writing for young people, narrative non-fiction and scriptwriting.
- Speakers at our annual series of Open Lectures and Readings include PhD students and contemporary writers.
The PhD in Creative Writing combines a proposed manuscript (e.g. novel, short story collection, poems, playscript, narrative non-fiction, digital writing) with an element of supporting or contextualising research. The proposed creative manuscript will be volume length (the natural length of a book, depending on genre). The supporting research will be 20,000 words.
A large number of our graduates have successful careers as writers and many have secured academic jobs. We encourage our students to publish and offer an exciting variety of research training opportunities through our campus-based and international low-residency streams.
We receive a large number of applications for the PhD in Creative Writing, and are extremely selective in our recruitment. Criteria for selection include the viability of the proposal, the strength of the creative writing sample, the applicant's academic and creative writing experience and achievements, and the ability of the University to support the applicant with appropriate supervision and resources. Applicants for this programme will normally hold a first or upper second class honours degree (or equivalent), as well as an MA in Creative Writing with Distinction (or comparable achievement).
The emphasis is not on creating two separate pieces of work, but on integration, on purposeful exploration through practice: an interdependent programme of contextual and practice-based creative work.
Both sections of the PhD must contain work of publishable quality. In the case of the contextualising research, this might mean some of the material could be turned into an article for an academic journal, but this element of the PhD must contain original, rigorous research. Together - taken as a whole - the contextual and creative elements must make a new contribution to knowledge.
Attendance and timetables
This is an independent research programme; there are no timetabled modules but you'll need to attend supervision sessions as negotiated with your supervisors as well as monthly specialist PhD in Creative Writing forums. The frequency of supervisory sessions may vary depending on the stage of research, and whether you are full or part time, but in general these meetings would take place every couple of weeks.
There are also research training events throughout the year that will aid in your research, as well as specialist PhD in Creative Writing forums that meet eight times a year.
Full time students are expected to work full-time on their research and should not undertake more than six hours of formal duty or paid work in any given week.
Part time students are expected to be working on their research for half of the working week but there are no specific restrictions on paid employment.
Students will, however, need to find ways to negotiate the balance between their study and their employment as they are likely to run into difficulty if they do not give the research as much time as it requires.
Individualised, subject-specific research training
Together, the student and the supervisory team negotiate a series of assignments and activities that help to advance the student's own work while at the same time equipping him or her with the knowledge and techniques they need to complete their PhD research.
Examples of activities might include a student's presentation of their creative writing at a PhD Master Class Writing Workshop, the submission of a treatment to a publisher, attendance of professional events hosted by the University (for example, talks by agents, publishers and writers) or leading some undergraduate creative writing seminars.
Research training might take the form of a series of one-to-one tutorials with a supervisor on the subject of their contextualising critical research, for example on narrative theory, or the presentation of a paper at a relevant academic conference, or the targeting of academic journals with material for publication.
Other research training
Each student, upon enrolment, has an individual meeting with the University's Tutor Librarian to discuss his or her research needs. The Library and Information Service offers training in the use of their resources and on research methods and management. The University has excellent electronic resources and search engines, and is constantly updating and increasing this provision.
The Graduate College provides a series of generic training workshops for students (e.g. The Research Plan, The Viva, IT skills) and staff development workshops (e.g. The Progression Assessment Process, Appointing Examination teams).
An examination team assesses the PhD thesis and conducts an oral examination (viva) of the student. The examination team consists of one internal examiner and one external examiner (two external examiners if the candidate has a relationship with the University beyond their PhD work, for instance through regular hourly paid teaching during the twelve months before examination paperwork is submitted).
Wherever possible, we try to offer our PhD students teaching, as it is an important part of professional development. However, we do not like to do so until the second year of PhD research, when the research and writing are established. The availability of part time teaching varies from year to year, and all candidates for teaching will be subject to an interview with the relevant Subject Leader.
As far as getting academic posts is concerned, a PhD will be a requirement for some and will always help. As the subject is relatively new in British higher education, quite a few people have secured jobs without having doctorates, but this may change gradually as more and more people complete PhDs.
The indispensable requirement if you want a permanent university job (as opposed to hourly paid teaching), is that you must be a published creative writer of some substance and reputation. It may well be that this AND the PhD will become the norm, though a successful enough writer will always be very attractive to departments.
An understanding of how university departments work, and the other administrative responsibilities associated with a lectureship, will also help. A PhD in Creative Writing should offer you this kind of professional development training.
Open lectures and readings
The School hosts an annual series of Open Lectures and Readings. Speakers include PhD students as well as contemporary writers. Previous guests have included Les Murray, Helen Dunmore, DBC Pierre, Toby Litt, Mimi Khalvati and Kathleen Jamie.
Low residency option for international students
Our first cohort for the Low Residency PhD in Creative Writing began their studies in October 2012 and we have been welcoming new cohorts annually since then.
Each year, the application cycle for recruiting the next low residency cohort opens in January and closes at the end of May. Interviews of shortlisted applicants then take place via Skype during late June or early July. The final decision on all shortlisted applicants is made in late July or early August. Successful applicants begin on 1 October of the year in which they apply.
You'll work with a team of two supervisors. These staff members will be announced closer to the time that the successful applicants begin their study.
There will be one residency period each year. It will last for ten days, and will coincide with the Bath Literature Festival that usually takes place in May. During your residency periods, you'll work intensively at Bath Spa with your supervisors and other students, attending workshops and training events. Residency activities will largely be based at our Corsham Court campus, though some will take place at Newton Park and in Bath itself.
The programme is intensive. You'll have video tutorials every two to three weeks over the academic year, in which your work will be regularly discussed. Six times a year you'll have major submission points.
You'll engage with other students and staff. The cohort model aims to encourage a sense of community, and to give support and feedback on a regular basis. You'll also participate in our monthly PhD forums via video link. As far as possible, the aim is to integrate our campus based and low residency streams of the PhD programme.
You'll be subject to the same processes and quality check-points of enrolment, registration, annual monitoring, progression assessment, and viva as all of the University's PhD students.
PhD timescale for submission: minimum of two years
The Low Residency PhD in Creative Writing programme is for full time International students only. It's a structured programme for students who are strongly motivated to complete within a carefully circumscribed timescale, and have a clear idea of exactly what their PhD research and manuscript will entail.
You may work with extra intensity and submit your PhD after a minimum of two years. Indeed, the programme is designed to enable you to do this, though it also allows for students who may need more time. The time scale of your doctoral programme will be negotiated between you and your supervisors, and will depend upon your progress.
South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SWW DTP)
Visit the SWW DTP website for more information. Bath Spa University is a member of this AHRC funded Consortium.
Creative Writing is one of the subjects covered by the partnership.
These studentships are open applicants from the UK and EU. Further information about eligibility can be found on the SWW DTP website.
Some additional advice for DTP applicants/remarks about the DTP follows here.
You'll need to identify two supervisors from two different DTP institutions, who, together, will provide the expertise you need to support your research. It will be helpful for you to go through the members of staff in the appropriate disciplines to identify potential supervisors, and to write to them with to see if they would be willing to be involved, should your application to the DTP succeed.
The process of application is different depending on whether you apply to the DTP or make an application directly to Bath Spa. For a Bath Spa only application, we assess the materials and then consider how best we can support the students with supervisors.
For the DTP, because the different institutions can combine to offer so much, we like applicants to consider as imaginatively as possible how they might benefit from this. We want DTP applicants to feel free to envisage how this can work. So look at our profiles in the Creative Writing and English department, and at those of the other members of the Consortium, and think about who your dream team might be. You can find out more about individual staff expertise under Research Themes and Supervisory Expertise.
If you're not successful with the DTP, and wish to apply to Bath Spa for a self-funded place, then write to our Graduate School letting us know. You're required to apply to Bath Spa at the same time as the DTP. After the DTP process, we will then assess your application for a Bath Spa place if you would like us to do so.
Writing and research environment
Our Creative Writing PhD students constitute a writing and research community. The School's Research Centre for Creative Writing sponsors a range of events and activities, some specially arranged for PhD students, and most of which are open to them to attend. These activities include a strand of events at the annual Bath Literature Festival; a Poetry Series; an exchange programme with Columbia College, Chicago; and a series of visits in which literary agents, published writers of all genres, and editors present talks and answer questions.
The Programme Leader for the PhD in Creative Writing organises training events exclusively for Creative Writing PhD students and their supervisors.
Writing Workshop Forums and Master Classes
Specialised research training is given through a programme of Writing Workshop Forums and Master Classes in which students take it in turns to have their writing workshopped by other Creative Writing PhD students, supervisors, and a published writer from outside the institution. Writers who have led Master Classes include the literary agent and novelist Anna Davis; the novelist Maggie Gee; the novelist Mo Hayder; the poet and scriptwriter Michelene Wandor; the poet, memoirist and novelist John Burnside; the literary agent Will Francis; the literary agent Euan Thorneycroft; and the novelist Christopher Nicholson.
All enrolled and registered Creative Writing PhD students are expected to participate in these Master Classes and Forums.
Our monthly PhD in Creative Writing Forums are an important strand in our continuous provision of specialist research training for Creative Writing PhD students, and an opportunity to develop further our postgraduate community. Here, the focus is on an extract from the contextualising research or the creative manuscript of the student's PhD work; in either case, many of the same workshop principles and methods we use in the creative writing workshop operate.
These forums are convened by the PhD in Creative Writing programme leader. Guest supervisors and other colleagues, as well as PhD students, participate. The forums benefit students who may be at quite different points in their work: from a student working on their first chapter, to a student who needs feedback on the final draft of their introduction or abstract before submission.
Where you'll be taught
Unless you have applied and been accepted onto the low residency, full time programme, it is important that you live within reasonable travel distance of the University. Although it is not a 'taught' degree in the sense of regularly occurring modules or classes, the PhD in Creative Writing is not a distance-learning programme; it is a residency-based PhD.
Staff and supervisors
Dr Tracy Brain, Programme Leader, PhD in Creative Writing:
Phone: +44 (0)1225 875653
Professor John Strachan, Vice Provost for Research and Enterprise, Head of the Graduate College:
Phone: +44 (0)1225 876292
Dr Paul Meyer, Subject Leader, Creative Writing:
Phone: +44 (0)1225 876591
Dr Laura Caulfield, Assistant Dean (Research and Postgraduate Affairs), College of Liberal Arts:
Phone: +44 (0)1225 876190
Our students work closely with a team of two or three supervisors - a mixture of accomplished creative writers and literary scholars. The different strengths of your supervisors will come into play with the different aspects of your research. One may have a strong role in supporting your work on your creative manuscripts, for instance, while the other possesses expertise in your area of critical research.
Among your supervisors will be a Director of Studies, upon whom the administrative load of your PhD work will fall. He or she completes, assembles and submits the paperwork that accompanies your research plan; completes the annual monitoring report on your progress that is submitted to the School each May; and organises your progression assessment, PhD submission, examination panel and viva.
Please note that the Director of Studies does not have more or less input into your research and writing than your other supervisors.
Creative writing staff
Contacting potential supervisors
It is not necessary to discuss your proposal with Bath Spa University staff before applying as part of what we are looking for is an applicant's ability to conceptualise, research and rationalise both components of their PhD. However, you are very welcome to contact Creative Writing staff in advance of applying, and/or to address any specific questions relating to DTP funding or potential supervision to the programme leader (Tracy Brain).
On receipt of your proposal, appropriate supervisors will be selected carefully by the Head of Department for Creative Writing in consultation with the Dean of the College, the Programme Leader for the PhD in Creative Writing, and other Heads of Department.
We only accept students for whom we can provide appropriate supervision; the final decision on which staff will work with a given student is a matter for the Subject Leader and Dean of the College.