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Creative and Critical Writing

The PhD Programme in Creative and Critical Writing is for students and writers wishing to complete a substantial creative work of marketable quality. Our own MA in Creative Writing provides an ideal basis for students wishing to undertake a PhD.

The PhD programme at Cardiff caters to individuals keen to join a thriving community of writers—from novelists and memoirists to poets and scriptwriters—all of whom share the common purpose of immersing themselves in the composition of a substantial piece of creative research.

The programme includes a compulsory critical element in which students relate the creative work they produce to its wider critical and cultural contexts and evaluate the conceptual and theoretical contribution the work represents.

Programme aims

  • The PhD programme is designed to enable students to put together an original piece of creative work—a novel, collection of poems or short stories, a play, film script, or work of creative non-fiction—together with a reflective critical commentary.
  • The programme offers knowledge and expertise to take you on to a role in Higher Education, or employment requiring high-level skills in research or advanced subject knowledge.
  • The programme recruits a diverse range of Home/EU and International students who want to engage in a research environment characterised by world-leading research expertise in all aspects of creative writing.

Distinctive features

  • The PhD programme offers a monthly seminar series specific to Creative Writing research students.
  • The School makes funding available each year for PGR students who wish to attend conferences / undertake library or archive visits in order to assist with their PhD studies.
  • PhD students are encouraged to attend the annual writers’ retreat at Gregynog Hall, a country house with a distinguished artistic heritage that is set in glorious countryside in mid-Wales.
  • PhD students are also encouraged to publish and advice can be sought from Creative Writing staff, all of whom are published authors.
  • We offer teaching opportunities on the undergraduate degree and PhD students can undertake the School’s unique “Learning to Teach” programme, accredited by the Higher Education Academy.

Key facts

Mode of study Full-time, part-time
Qualification PhD
Full-time duration PhD 3 years
Part-time duration PhD 5 years
Start dates January, April, October

Our PhD students in Creative and Critical Writing are producing dynamic work both in established modes and forms and across a range of (hybrid) genres from experimental poetry and short stories to radio and film scripts, ambitious novels and innovative narrative non-fiction and are supported by supervisors who are experienced, published writer-academics with emerging and established international reputations. Our students are further trained in the ability to reflect critically on their own work. Though the balance between self-reflective analysis of the creative element on the one hand and the wider disciplinary and intellectual context on the other will vary according to the contours of each doctoral project, the commentary should be a rigorous evaluative analysis of the territory in which the creative work intervenes, and of the ways in which that intervention is accomplished.

Examples of recent and current PhD topics are given below:

  • “Modest Venus: Experiments in Seeing” (Narrative Non-Fiction)
  • “World of Appearances: Defining a Post-Projective Method in Contemporary Poetics”
  • “Poetic Grief: Writing the Death of an Addict”
  • “Representations of Italy in Contemporary English Literature” and a Novel
  • “Root and Branch: Direction in the Urban Novel in Contemporary Welsh Fiction in English”
  • “The Gwerin and the Crachach: A Novel”
  • “The Myth and its Registration”: Intellectual Property and Trademarks and a Novel


The PhD programme involves the preparation of an original piece of creative work—fiction, non-fiction, script or screenplay, a collection of poems or short stories—and a critical commentary.

Candidates for the PhD in Creative and Critical Writing will submit one of the following:

  • Prose: novel, short story, work of creative non-fiction or play/film script; the creative portion and critical commentary will not normally exceed 100,000 words with the critical commentary comprising not less than 20,000 words.
  • Poetry: a collection of poetry, prose poetry or micro-fiction amounting to around 60 pages, with an accompanying critical commentary of not less than 20,000 words.
  • An integrated Creative-Critical submission of no more than 100,000 words.

"Positioned at the interface of different traditions, methodologies, theoretical approaches, disciplines and practices, our internationally recognized and pioneering research engenders challenging and fascinating questions for our staff and also, through our PhD supervision and research-led teaching, for our students at all levels." Professor Ann Heilmann, Director of Research in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy.

The School was ranked in the top ten for the quality of its English Language and Literature research, including Creative and Critical Writing, in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF2014). Cardiff University recently joined the world's top 100 universities for the study of English Language and Literature (again including Creative and Critical Writing) in the 2016 QS World University Rankings.

Research environment

The School takes the training of research students very seriously, providing the facilities and supervisory guidance to help them flourish intellectually and work productively. The School has a dedicated suite of PhD research rooms with excellent networked IT facilities. Each student has a conference budget and is given a contribution to photocopying costs, as well as free printing facilities.

We regularly check with students what training they need and ensure that it is provided. Our PhD students can apply to get teaching experience with us and our unique “Learning to Teach” programme is accredited by the Higher Education Academy. The School holds a yearly conference to allow PhD students the opportunity to share work with their peers in a supportive and stimulating multi-disciplinary environment. The Arts and Social Studies Library is well-stocked with books and academic journals in all our subject areas, substantial electronic resources and specialist collections such as Cardiff Rare Books, a rich archive of over 14,000 items ranging from fifteenth-century incunabula to twentieth-century fine press books.

In a competitive jobs market, our students are encouraged and supported in building up the skills that will make them employable, whatever their career direction. We value the rich experience of our many overseas students and actively attend to their specific needs in relation to their cultural context of study and the demands of writing elegantly in a second language.

The programme offers ideal preparation for those wishing to pursue careers in freelance writing and academia as well as journalism, publishing, teaching, public relations and arts management and administration.

Job roles: Writer, Lecturer, Editor, Head Teacher, English Teacher, EFL Teacher, PR Officer.

Employers: Universities from Cork (Ireland) to Wisconsin State (USA), Oxford University Press, Penguin Random House, Palgrave MacMillan, London Film School, Virgin Media, Literature Wales, Visit Wales.

UK government postgraduate doctoral loans

Candidates for the Professional Doctorate programme may be eligible to apply for a UK government postgraduate doctoral loan.

Find out more about UK government postgraduate doctoral loans


The School welcomes enquiries from applicants who are considering applying for funding for a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing from the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership.

See our latest PhD studentships and projects and find out more about other funding opportunities.

Tuition fees

Students from the UK

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Students from the rest of the world (international)

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

In addition to the application form, research proposal and supporting documents we also require copies of recent creative work, the word count of which will depend very much on the genre of work produced but we would expect approximately 3,000 words of prose or 10-15 poems.

Applicants should include a research proposal (approx 1000 words), 2 academic references, a sample of creative writing, copies of BA and MA degree certificates and a transcript of the marks.

Further information and guidelines for Personal Statement or supporting material.

Research proposal

The research proposal should be approximately 1,000 words in length. This should provide an outline of the aims and objectives of your project and indicate how you see it intervening in the field, in creative and critical terms alike.

In addition to this, we require copies of recent creative work, the word-count of which will depend very much on the genre of work produced. We would expect approximately 3,000 words of prose or 10-15 poems.

Applicants should also include supporting documents in the form of two academic references, copies of BA and MA degree certificates and a transcript of marks.

Admission process

The Director of the Creative and Critical Writing Postgraduate Research Programme assesses all applications, taking into consideration the quality and viability of the project, as well as the capacity of staff to supervise it. This will include consultation with potential supervisors. Applicants who pass this initial stage of assessment will then be invited for interview.

A list of staff working within Creative Writing.

Applications are welcome from graduates with at least a 2.1 at undergraduate level (in any academic discipline). While an MA in Creative Writing or English Literature is an advantage, it is not a prerequisite.

You are recommended to email the postgraduate administrator at with your research proposal and a sample of creative work prior to making a formal application.

English language requirements

The School welcomes applications from students outside the United Kingdom. For non-native speakers of English, an IELTS overall score of 7.5 with at least 7.0 in each sub score is essential.

Please read our English language requirements for more details.


Administrative contact(s)

ENCAP Postgraduate Admissions

Administrative contact


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See the range of PhD studentships and projects currently available.

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