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Students at Towner


Critically engaged writing

Key details

  • 180 credits
  • 1 year programme
  • Full-time study

School or Centre

Develop your intellectual, literary, and technical skills.

Still accepting applications for 2022 entry. See the Key Dates webpage for round 4 details.

This programme is subject to validation

Consider the MA Writing programme part of the ongoing occasion of your learning, one which you have already begun, will share with us for a year, and which will then continue — irrevocably changed — once you leave. While you’re with us you will be taught a lot, but you will learn a great deal more.

There is not one particular type of writer that we would like to produce, and so whether you would like to write for a mainstream audience, or prepare for doctoral study, we will be able to support you to become the best possible version of the writer you’d like to be. If we tend towards anything it is ‘creative non-fiction’, imperfectly described, although ‘literary writing’, rather than literature, might be a less inadequate alternative. In recent years our students have used the expanded essay to produce an extraordinary range of forms and consider an extraordinary range of subjects, and you will be encouraged to do so, too. The projects often combine these different approaches unexpectedly, or fold together established genres — such as memoir and cultural history, for example — to produce work which possesses both intellectual rigour and poetic form.

Explore further

Visit 2022.rca.ac.uk to view recent Work in Progress by our students, visit 2021.rca.ac.uk to view graduate work from the class of 2021

Replay our November 2021 online Open Day.



The School of Arts & Humanities is located across our Battersea and Kensington sites.

View all facilities

You'll benefit from being part of a vibrant art and design school environment. There are a number of bookable seminar and project spaces across the site available to all Arts & Humanities students.

  • Writing session (photo: Richard Haughton)

    Writing session (photo: Richard Haughton)

  • Library Kensington

    Library, Kensington

  • Writing Workshop (photo: Richard Haughton)

    Writing Workshop (photo: Richard Haughton)

More details on what you'll study.

Find out what you'll cover in this programme.

What you'll cover

This programme is subject to validation

The Writing programme consists of distinct but complementary units through which you will develop your writing practice. Although you will be asked to respond to particular briefs and projects throughout these units, we don’t want you to think of these as discrete tasks but rather as parts of your larger writing practice. By the end of the programme, you will have not only a substantial portfolio of writing, but also a strong sense of how these works constitute your broader practice, and how you might want to develop this further. As such, you can use the programme units both as an opportunity to consolidate your practice and also the means by which you might test and extend it, whether that is by experimenting with form, or exploring new areas of enquiry.

The programme builds a supportive and critical environment between staff and students, and you will no doubt learn as much responding to the others as you will in having them respond to yours. Writing is largely reading, and so you’ll do a lot of that, extracts from novels, essays, and interviews, but perhaps more importantly you’ll read the work of your peers, and develop an intimacy with their writing unlike any you’ve experienced previously. And they with yours, too. This is the first step in developing a network of peers upon whom you can draw for the rest of your career, and many of our graduates continue to work closely with one another.

That writing is in the world, and of it, rather than simply being about it, is a fundamental ethos of the programme, and although this is certainly no vocational course, you will accumulate a great deal of professional skills, and meet a wide range of practitioners, from writers and editors to publishers and commissioners. Our graduates can be found editing The White Review, or being published by Granta, Zero Books, or Fitzcarraldo Editions. They work as editors on publications, or start up their own, or they pursue a career in academia, with our graduates having followed PhDs in Oxford, Manchester, Edinburgh, Goldsmiths, or Birkbeck, and teaching in numerous prestigious institutions, including the RCA.

When John Ruskin established his school of drawing at the University of Oxford it was not simply in order to produce better draughtsmen (although that too), but to use drawing as the means by which to attend to the world and understand it better, whether that is a Gothic arch or the material conditions of the artisan who produced it. We consider the Writing programme similarly: as the means to make better writers, yes, but also better thinkers, people who are better able to notice the world and so discern the best way to engage with it.

This programme is subject to validation

The programme is delivered across three terms and includes a combination of programme, School and College units.

Term 1

Distance and Proximity - We’re always writing from somewhere, and this unit consider what it means to have a position, whether in relation to a subject, or a person. It is often said to be important to maintain a ‘critical distance’ to a subject, and yet ‘close knowledge’ is also greatly valued. How far from — or how close to — a subject might one be to write best about it?

Attention - Attention is one of the foremost qualities of a writer, whether it is turned to the rhythm of a sentence or the cut of a jacket, a political movement or the stillness within a dance. To notice, to discern, to discriminate: all of these things will be considered within this unit.

Publics and Counterpublics - How might we create the public for whom we write? In this unit we will consider how our writing might enter the world, and the effect it might have upon it once it does.

College-wide unit - This unit delivered across terms 1 and 2 aims to support students to meet the challenges of a complex, uncertain and changing world by bringing them together to work collaboratively on a series of themed projects informed by expertise within and beyond the College. These projects will challenge you to use your intellect and imagination to address key cultural, social, environmental and economic challenges. In doing so, you will develop and reflect on the abilities required to translate knowledge into action, and help demonstrate the contribution that the creative arts can make to our understanding and experience of the world.

Term 2

The Practical Past - Research is one of the most important ways by which we engage with the world, and in this unit we will look at how we can develop our research skills to improve our writing practice. As well as reading groups and discussions on various historiographic approaches, students will visit archives, libraries, and other collections to learn how these might be used to extend their practices.

How to Live Together - Writing is often presented as a solitary activity; we prefer to think of it as something collaborative, something that is made with and for others. In this unit students will work together to produce work for a cultural organisation which will be made public; this might be a small publication, for example, or a podcast, or a series of talks.

Urgency of the Arts - In term 2 all School of Arts & Humanities students will participate in the Urgency of the Arts, School-wide unit. Through this unit we ask: what does arts and humanities research and practice have to offer in our current socio-political climate? The unit introduces students to a diverse range of perspectives, approaches and practices relevant to contemporary practice and thought in the Arts & Humanities. The delivery is devised to help you identify and query your own practices and disciplinary assumptions through encounters with others and within the various practices undertaken by students in the School, and to raise awareness around contemporary concerns. You will be supported in understanding the ramifications of your own work and practice within a broad cultural context, and to recognise its many potentially unintended readings and consequences.

Term 3

Independent Research Project (IRP) - The IRP is the culmination of the MA Writing programme, and constitutes the largest piece of work to be completed by the students. The form of the IRP is subject to negotiation but it is suggested that the submission consists of a piece of writing of between 10,000–12,000 words; this might be reduced if the submission also contains other elements, such as a website, or other audio-visual materials, for example. Although the IRP consists largely of independent study, it is also supported by individual and group tutorials, and work-in-progress presentations.


What you need to know before you apply

Candidates are selected entirely on merit and applications are welcomed from all over the world. The selection process will consider creativity, imagination and innovation as demonstrated in your portfolio, as well as your potential to benefit from the programme and to achieve high MA standards overall.

What's needed from you

Your portfolio is a showcase of your work as an artist or designer and can be made up of images, videos or writing examples. Your portfolio helps us to better understand your application and allows you to show evidence of your ability and motivation to undertake a given programme.

Generally, we’re looking for you to demonstrate your:

  • Creativity, imagination and innovation
  • Ability to articulate the intentions of the work
  • Intellectual engagement in areas relevant to the work
  • Technical skills appropriate to the work
  • Potential to benefit from the programme

If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need the equivalent of an IELTS Academic score of 6.5 with a 6.0 in the Test of Written English (TWE) and at least 5.5 in other skills. Students achieving a grade of at least 6.0, with a grade of 5.5 in the Test of Written English, may be eligible to take the College’s English for Academic Purposes course to enable them to reach the required standard.

You are exempt from this requirement if you have received a 2.1 degree or above from a university in a majority English-speaking nation within the last two years.

If you need a Student Visa to study at the RCA, you will also need to meet the Home Office’s minimum requirements for entry clearance.

Find out more about English-language requirements

Fees & funding

For this programme

Fees for new students

Fees for September 2022 entry on this programme are outlined below. From 2021 onward, EU students are classified as Overseas for tuition fee purposes.

Overseas and EU


New entrants to the College will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit in order to secure their place. This will be offset against the tuition fees.

Overseas and EU

* Total cost is based on the assumption that the programme is completed in the timeframe stated in the programme details. Additional study time may incur additional charges.



Scholarships are awarded for a specific programme and entry point and cannot be deferred without consent from the academic Programme and scholarships panel.

More information

External funding

There are many funding sources, with some students securing scholarships and others saving money from working. It is impossible to list all the potential funding sources; however, the following information could be useful.


Tuition fees are due on the first day of the academic year and students are sent an invoice prior to beginning their studies. Payments can be made in advance, on registration or in two instalments.

Start your application

RCA students at work (photo: Richard Haughton)

Change your life and be here in 2022

The Royal College of Art welcomes applicants from all over the world.

Before you begin

Make sure you've read and understood the entrance requirements and key dates
More information about eligibility and key dates
Check you have all the information you need to apply.
Read our application process guide
Visit our applications portal to get started

Ask a question

Get in touch if you’d like to find out more or have any questions.

Email us at
[email protected]
RCA Kensington cafe