School of Humanities and Performing Arts

PhD Creative Writing

Plymouth’s PhD in Creative Writing is one of the longest running in the UK, going back to the late 1990s. Our MA, and PhD students have had books published in all forms and received many kudos over the years, including being shortlisted for The Forward First Book Prize for Poetry, receiving a two-novel deal with Headline, winning the £10,000 Ballymaloe Poetry Prize, and winning the Manchester Metropolitan Novella Prize (Jamie Edgecombe, see his student profile below).

We offer a rich and warm post-graduate culture in English and Creative Writing at Plymouth, based in fellowship and scholarly interaction with the other departments in the Faculty (including Fine Art, Computer Music, and Theatre and Performance). Our award-winning writers include Miriam Darlington (author of the nature writing book, Owl Sense), Ben Smith (author of the novel, Doggerland), and Anthony Caleshu (author of The Victor Poems and founding editor of Periplum press).

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Government loans available

£25,000 Government loans for Postgraduate Research Study, including: ResM, MPhil/PhD, EdD.
More information on the gov.uk website.

Course details

  • Overview
  • This full time or part time doctoral programme is suitable for people who have a particular research question or topic in mind, and wish to explore this through independent study in order to produce an original contribution to the subject. If you aspire to a research career this is the most appropriate research degree to undertake.

    You will be guided by a small supervisory team of academic experts under the direction of a Director of Studies. Even if you already have a masters degree, you will normally be registered as a ‘MPhil/PhD’ candidate and may apply to transfer to ‘PhD’ status around 10–22 months after registration, based on your progress to date.

    You will be expected to fully engage with skills development and training and to present your research in a range of scholarly contexts.

    Your PhD will be assessed via submission of either a written thesis (approximately 80,000 words), or one that combines critical writing with artistic, creative and/or professional practice, and a viva voce (an oral examination).

    For full details of what doing a PhD entails at the University of Plymouth, please visit our Postgraduate Research Degrees pages.

    Core modules
    • GSRCWRI1 Research Creative Writing

  • Year 2
  • Core modules
    • GSRCWRI3 Research Creative Writing

  • Year 3
  • Core modules
    • GSRCWRI4 Research Creative Writing

  • Year 4
  • Core modules
    • GSRCWRI5 Research Creative Writing

  • Year 5
  • Core modules
    • GSRCWRI6 Research Creative Writing

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

Masters degree or equivalent from a UK higher education institution in a relevant subject.

Applicants normally have to supply a research proposal, personal statement, and occasionally evidence that they are prepared to undertake the proposed project. This may include a portfolio, or a sample of critical writing, depending on their area of study.

Other UK or overseas qualifications may also be accepted – with academic reference

For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.

Fees, costs and funding

Please visit tuition fees for postgraduate research for information about fees. This course is in Band 1 for fees purposes.

If you are a full time student, you will pay full time fees for three years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional one year writing up period.

If you are a part time student, you will pay part time fees for four years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional 'writing up' period of up to two years.

You are responsible for meeting all of the costs related to your own research project, beyond the resources available in the department.

Please visit our postgraduate research money matters page to find out more about issues related to fees, funding, loans and paying for your programme of study.

How to apply

In addition to completing the online application form (which includes space for a personal statement), you must also upload a research project proposal of no more than 1000 words in total. Your research proposal should outline your general topic, your key aims and the research question/problem you are addressing, your proposed methodology, key definitions/thinkers/discourses/practitioners you are drawing upon and an explanation of why this topic is significant or important.

Your personal statement should briefly explain why you have chosen to apply to our programme and what you feel you can offer our research community.

You will also need to submit a sample of your critical writing (3000 words maximum) and, if relevant, evidence of your ability to undertake the practice-led research you are proposing (e.g. a DVD, portfolio, links to website, reviews, catalogue, etc.). It should take no longer than 30 minutes to view all the visual material that you provide.

For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.

Doctoral Creative Writing projects include collections of poetry influenced by field work in Nepal, creative non-fiction exploring the plight of refugee women in immigration detention centres in the UK, short story sequences about domestic dysfunction, and novels set far and wide: from 16th century America to 21st century Japan. All of our PhD students produce creative work alongside a critical dissertation (from 15,000 words to 40,000 words), exploring their methodology as well as their wider literary context. 

Current student, Jamie Edgecombe is working on a novel set in post-War and contemporary Japan, with an accompanying dissertation on ekphrastic fiction (writing which is concerned with ‘narrating’ the visual arts). He won the Manchester Metropolitan University Novella Prize for The Art of Kozu (the first part of which was based on his MA Creative Writing dissertation).

He works as an English teacher at Tavistock College and is concurrently Writer in Residence at University of Plymouth and leader of the module MA Fiction: Stories and Novels.

Jamie Edgcombe, MA Creative Writing graduate and current PhD student.

English and creative writing research

Our staff have published extensively and internationally across a diverse range of fields in literary criticism and creative writing.

We are part of a thriving community of researchers covering arts and humanities disciplines, supported by the University's Arts Institute.

Current and recent PhDs

Nathan Adams – PhD Creative Writing
"Order of Most Holy Disputed: Ladies of Dintagel"
2018–present
Director of Studies: Dr David Sergeant

Kate Glew – PhD Creative Writing (Doctoral Teaching Assistant)
"The Smithfield Heretics"
2018–present
Director of Studies: Professor Angela Smith 

Russell Evans – PhD Creative Writing
"Creative Non-Fiction and a Dissertation on the Use of Forensic Science in Literature"
2018–present
Director of Studies: Professor Anthony Caleshu

Rosemarie Corlett – PhD Creative Writing
"Scars the Shape of Wings: Flightlessness, Superstition and Violence in the Story of the Great Auk"
2017–present
Director of Studies: Dr Miriam Darlington

Sam Kemp – PhD Creative Writing
"A Book of Poems, and a Dissertation on Contemporary Radical Landscape Poetry"
2017–present
Director of Studies: Professor Anthony Caleshu

Eloise Wales – PhD Creative Writing
"Travel Writing around Islands, and a Dissertation on Writing the Anthropocene" 
2016–present
Director of Studies: Professor Anthony Caleshu

Helen Chamberlain – PhD Creative Writing
"Three Novellas, and a Dissertation on Early Modern American Fiction"
2015–present
Director of Studies: Professor Anthony Caleshu

Tracey Guiry – PhD Creative Writing
"Time-travellers and Storytellers: Dementia in Children’s Literature"
2014–present
Director of Studies: Professor Angela Smith

Ellie Walsh – PhD Creative Writing
"Birds with Wolf Hearts, a Collection of Poetry, and a Critical Introduction to Contemporary Nepalese Women's Poetry" 
2014–present
Director of Studies: Professor Anthony Caleshu

Jamie Edgecombe – PhD Creative Writing
"Bone Painting, a novel, and a Dissertation on Ekphrastic Possibilities in Modern Japanese Fiction"
2013–present
Director of Studies: Professor Anthony Caleshu

Tom Vowler – PhD Creative Writing
"That Dark Remembered Day: A Novel, and Dissertation on Trauma in Contemporary Fiction"
Awarded 2016
Director of Studies: Professor Anthony Caleshu

Peter Gillies – PhD Creative Writing
"Poems to the Sea and Painterly Poetics: Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, and Cole Swensen"
Awarded 2016
Director of Studies: Professor Anthony Caleshu

Jonathan Wooding – PhD Creative Writing
"An Atheist’s Prayer-Book: A Book of Poetry and a Critical Study on Geoffrey Hill and Religious Influence"
Awarded 2015
Director of Studies: Professor Anthony Caleshu

Nicola Johnson – PhD Creative Writing
"Earhart County, a Novel, and a Dissertation on ‘The Making of a Wondertale’."
Awarded 2012
Director of Studies: Professor Anthony Caleshu

Maria Capelo – PhD Creative Writing
"All Over the Place: A Novel, Followed by Critical Commentary on my Creative Work and Paul Auster’s Fiction"
Awarded 2011
Director of Studies: Professor Anthony Caleshu

Lucy Durneen – PhD Creative Writing
"Everything Beautiful is Far Away, a novel with a critical dissertation"
Awarded 2011
Director of Studies: Professor Angela Smith

Academic staff