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Frequently Asked Questions about the the Distance Learning MA (DLMA) in Creative Writing

Q: How much time will I be spending on the course per week?

A: There’s no easy answer to this. The course is a part-time one and designed to be very flexible, with asynchronous working, so you can be online when you choose. For this practice-based course, you will be asked to submit a substantial piece of writing twice each term for your tutorial, and there are also termly online conferences. Your tutor will recommend reading for you, and you’ll also find it useful to participate in the discussions that take place informally on the café discussion parts of the site. Each student finds their own rhythm of reading, writing and rewriting – but we do find that many students are able to continue full time work and combine it with study.

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Q: How confident do I need to be with computers and ICT to do the course? What support is available?

A: You’ll work with your tutor and other members of your cohort exchanging work and having forum discussions on a virtual learning environment called MOODLE. This in an easy system to learn how to use – it’s no more difficult than sending an email or posting a status update on Facebook. Understanding the IT system is part of the research training we provide.  If you do find it difficult to navigate at first, there is dedicated support available from within the department. If you’d like a sneak-preview of what the learning environment looks like, here’s the student help guide and here’s a short video demonstrating the basics.

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Q: Is there a reading list you can send me in advance?

A: Because we encourage you to work on your own individual project with your tutor, and because no two students’ needs or interests are alike, your tutor will work with you from the outset of the course to create a bespoke reading list tailored to your interests and development needs. There are also wide and varied reading lists linked to electronic library resources (where they exist). However, we do have a short list of books that over the years many of our students have found useful as a way to get started and you can download it here.

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Q: As a distance learner, I’m worried about being isolated and not really feeling part of a creative writing community. How much contact will I have with the other students on my course?

A: We’ve found that as writers, all our students are interested in, and skilled at, expressing themselves and getting to know each other through the social forums that are embedded on the Moodle site. The conversation is wide-ranging and lively. There are also regular online conferences scheduled so you can respond to each other’s work in a more structured way. We have a Facebook group where you can make contact with students from other creative writing courses, research students and alumnae, and each summer there’s a week long Summer School  where you can get to know your tutors and fellow students face-to-face. You can read feedback from students who have attended previous summer schools here.

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Q: I don't know yet if I want to specialise in poetry or prose writing - does that matter?

A: All our tutors are skilled in a range of writing genres. As long as you express the range of your interests at the start of the course, we’ll do our very best to accommodate it. The first year of the course can be used to experiment with different forms, though we would expect some more definite commitment by the end of that year. Your tutor will be on hand to provide advice here. It’s also possible to produce a mixed portfolio of different or related genres. Many students working in mixed media don’t decide upon the actual contents of their final portfolio until the Summer Term. Even if you’re working as a novelist, you’ll have to make selections from your work at this point.

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Q: Do I get to choose who my tutor will be?

Occasionally students have met their tutor at a residential course or reading and apply specifically to work with them. Whilst we cannot guarantee you a certain tutor, we try to if we feel that this is appropriate. Before the course starts we ask each student to submit a proposal for their course of study and we allocate specialist tutors accordingly. All our tutors are professional, published writers and all of them are experienced in distance learning in the context of postgraduate study.

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Q: Who will my fellow students be?

A: Our distance learning courses attract students for many reasons – some of them may be geographically remote, others have full-time jobs, many live overseas and some have personal circumstances, such as disability, that make this method attractive. Whatever your own reasons, you will be part of an international community, engaging with students from many different parts of the world and sharing and exploring your own cultural experience with them. You can read what current and previous students have to say about our courses here.

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Q: Isn’t distance learning, well…distant?

A: Distance learning is really a misnomer in the modern world where millions of people now connect through the Internet and social media. Distance learning (or virtual learning) can provide a special intimacy with your personal tutor and create a sense of community with people who may live thousands of miles away. Additionally, distance learning is especially suited to the teaching of creative writing where – after all, readers rarely meet the authors they admire! On this course, virtual exchange is through the medium of study – writing – and you will build a unique portfolio of writing and research to which both you and your tutor contribute.

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Q: Isn’t distance learning second best?

A: Distance learning has often suffered from rather dubious comparison with disreputable self-help courses which do not provide adequate learning support. Lancaster is now a leading provider of virtual learning at postgraduate level in creative writing in the UK. Our academic results are exceptional and many of our students go on to publish their work. In 2013, from a cohort of 18 graduates, we awarded 7 Distinctions, 5 Merit marks and 6 straight passes. Few other MA courses could compare with that record, which has now been sustained for many years.

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Q: Can I obtain funding for my MA Degree?

A: Funding is extremely competitive and only the best qualified students with the best proposals will succeed in obtaining it. We provide some Faculty bursaries and there may be AHRC 1+3 (MA followed by PhD) funding available. The situation changes from year to year, depending on availability of funds, but you should remember that you need to have been accepted on a course in order to apply for funding. You can visit our Fees & Funding Page for more information.

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Q: Is this a good course to prepare for PhD study in creative writing?

A: An MA is a prerequisite for postgraduate study and our MA programme has been designed to create a logical and progressive pathway to the PhD. You will engage with research training on the MA and also be required to write a reflective essay in relation to your creative writing. That creative/critical relationship is the essence of the PhD study, though the PhD engages with them at a more advanced level. The Lancaster PhD is available through distance learning and face-to-face methods and it’s possible to modulate between the two methods at various points if your research or circumstances demand this.

Still have questions?

Student Journals

Cake publishes poetry, flash fiction and reviews with work from established poets and newcomers alike. Go to Cake»

Share research and make connections with other researchers. Go to the Luminary»


The Flash Journal is an undergraduate run termly journal which publishes fiction, poetry, critical and hybrid work by current Lancaster undergrads. Go to Flash»

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