MA Creative Writing Crime Fiction (Part Time)

"My year at UEA was one of the best of my life"

In their words

Ian McEwan, Creative Writing Graduate and Booker Prize winner

Key facts

At UEA we aim to lead the world in both the creative practice and critical study of crime fiction.

UEA’s part-time, low-residency MA Creative Writing Crime Fiction provides you with the opportunity to write a full-length novel under the guidance of award-winning crime writers and experienced creative writing tutors. It offers unique flexibility, involving distance learning supported by residencies, meaning you don’t have to relocate or give up work to study with us.

The course is delivered via a specially designed, highly inclusive online platform, and three short residential periods per year. These incorporate a mix of creative and critical workshops and seminars, and a masterclass from a leading crime writer. Professional writers involved in the residencies have included Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Melanie McGrath, Denise Mina, Mark Billingham and Julia Crouch. Visits from literary agents and editors also take place during the May residential period.


Please note that the closing date for applications is 1 June 2018. However, the course may be full before the closing date and so you are advised to apply as early as possible.

This part-time course runs over two years via a specially designed distance-learning online platform. You will also take part in three short (two full days) residential periods of study each year – in September, January and May – to support your study. By arrangement, international students may embark upon a different residential structure. Accommodation may be available at UEA’s on-campus B&B, Broadview Lodge, where MA Crime Fiction students are prioritised. All the residential periods incorporate a mix of creative and critical workshops and seminars, and a masterclass from a leading crime writer. In the May residential period you will also benefit from visits by literary agents and editors of crime fiction lists.

Crime/thriller fiction is the most popular adult literary genre in the world; in the last decade, UK sales alone have risen by 80%. At UEA, we are at the forefront of both critical and creative study within this highly dynamic genre.

Your modules will be delivered by distance learning, and include tutor- and student-led group presentations, discussions, workshopping, and one-on-one Skype tutorials. We make the course material, including original recordings, easily available via our dedicated course website pages. Digital library resources are also available. 

Crime Fiction at UEA

Creative Writing teaching began at UEA over 40 years ago, and the University offers a number of renowned and highly regarded creative writing programmes. The MA Creative Writing Crime Fiction builds on our world-leading expertise, presenting you with the unique opportunity to further your knowledge and skills within the crime/thriller genre, and complete a full-length novel.

We have now embedded critical crime fiction and non-fiction modules across all levels of taught study within the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, and doctoral research and supervision in the area is also growing at UEA. Further, we are a founding partner of Noirwich, Norwich’s annual crime writing festival, which takes place in September, coinciding with the September residential.

Course structure

MA Crime Fiction comprises modules designed specifically for the course, ensuring our teaching has the same creative and academic integrity as UEA’s other Creative Writing MAs.

In the first year you will take the modules A Critical Approach to Crime Writing, and A Theoretical and Practical Approach to Crime Writing. In these, you will critically examine a number of landmark crime texts, address the practical and theoretical issues of fiction writing, and explore the literary devices particularly relevant to crime writing, including plot, suspense, pacing, setting and characterisation.

You will also take A Creative Approach to Crime Writing 1 and 2, which run through both the first and second years. In these modules you will plan and write your own crime novel, guided by one-on-one tutorials and group workshopping. At the end of the first year you will submit the first 10,000 words of your novel for assessment. You will complete the novel in year two, supervised throughout the process by our experienced tutors.

Each year, in addition to these modules, you will take part in three residential periods of study, involving masterclasses and seminars, which make up the modules A Public Approach to Crime Writing 1 and 2. These are a great chance to meet your fellow students in person and enhance your career prospects, benefiting from the advice of visiting writers, publishing professionals and other research-related professionals.


During the first year you will complete the critical and practical/theoretical modules, and part 1 of the creative module. These are continually (formatively) assessed, and you will submit work for marking (summative assessment) at the end of the academic year.

In year two you will complete a full-length work of crime fiction. Again, this will be assessed throughout the year, and marked at the end.

For more details see the Course Modules below. 

Course tutors and research interests

We have exceptional links with leading international crime writers, critics, publishers and agents. Ian Rankin was UEA’s UNESCO Visiting Professor in autumn 2016. Other writers associated with UEA and the Norwich Festival include Lee Child, Val McDermid, Megan Abbott, Nicci French and Sophie Hannah. Our Course Director is crime fiction writer Henry Sutton (who also writes under the name Harry Brett). 

Where next?

The principal aim of the MA Crime Fiction is to help you develop a deeper understanding of the craft and context of producing crime fiction. Our commitment is primarily to your writing. While we cannot promise outcomes in terms of publishing, we do have excellent links with agents and publishers, many of whom visit the campus to give talks during the spring residential.

Each year we create a dedicated crime fiction anthology of student writing, which is distributed widely. The literary agency David Higham Associates sponsors a generous bursary, and the publisher Little, Brown awards an annual prize to the best graduating student.

The course will also prepare you for PhD study.

Frequently asked questions

I already have a BA in Literature and Creative Writing, and have attended other writing workshops. What can the MA offer that I haven’t already done?

The MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) should be a significant step up from anything you will have done previously, not least because you will be in the company of so many other exceptionally promising writers. As tutors we will look to test your assumptions as well as your abilities and there should be no grounds for complacency. We would expect you to want to extend your knowledge and understanding and improve on anything you have written before.

I don’t have a first degree in English Literature or Creative Writing. Would I be suitable for the MA?

Our first consideration is always the quality and potential of the writing sample submitted with your application. We accept students with a wide variety of academic backgrounds – and some with none. Whatever your academic background, however, we would expect you to demonstrate in your personal statement, and subsequently in your interview, that you have read widely and deeply within the genre not least, have begun to develop a critical vocabulary for discussing your writing (and that of others), and have the sensitivity and awareness to learn effectively and contribute to the learning of others.

Should I have a clear idea of my writing project before beginning the course?

Some students do have a very definite idea of their project before joining the course, but many do not. The course is structured to allow a focused and fully supported development of ideas. While the first year might be a time of experimentation and play – an opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them – the second year will be completing a full-length manuscript. Having too rigid an idea of what you want to achieve initially might make it difficult for you to adapt your work in response to first-year feedback.

Whom should I approach for references – a former tutor, my current employer, a lifelong friend? I know a published author who can vouch for my writing.

Academic referees are most useful to us as they can give an opinion on your suitability for postgraduate study. Employers can sometimes also offer useful information about your abilities and attributes. The testimony of a personal friend is rarely helpful. We will make our own assessment of your writing, but it can sometimes be beneficial to read the opinion of a tutor, editor or writer who can comment on your ability to develop in response to feedback.

How many students do you accept each year?

We are receiving an increasing number of applications for the MA Crime Fiction. Our target is 12 students a year. We interview (usually by Skype) everyone we offer places to.

Will I be able to teach undergraduates while completing my Master’s degree?

Opportunities to teach undergraduates are limited to PhD students in the second and third years of their doctoral studies. However, opportunities do sometimes arise for MA students to participate in schools-based initiatives, both locally and further afield.

What are you looking for in a student?

We are seeking writers and readers with a serious interest in exploring the particularly broad and dynamic crime fiction genre. Our admissions process places an emphasis on both the quality and potential of your writing portfolio (5,000 words of fiction, though not necessarily crime fiction), knowledge and commitment. While a good first degree is desirable, it is not essential.

Funding is available via three dedicated bursaries: Main Scholarship, David Higham Associates Crime Fiction Bursary, and the UEA Literary Festival Crime Fiction Bursary. The publisher Little, Brown also provides an award each year for the completed manuscript it deems the best.   

Course Modules 2018/9

Students must study the following modules for 70 credits:

Name Code Credits


This is your opportunity to write the beginning of a crime novel, including the planning and plotting. You will be directed throughout the year to the formation of this proposal, and work, through online group workshopping, residential workshops, and one-on-one tutorials. Discussions will also focus around genre and public and critical expectation. Formative work, largely comprising of draft outlines, research plans and early chapters, will be assessed throughout the year and the summative work will be the first 10,000 words of your novel.




You will study key crime fiction texts and accompanying critical essays and papers. These will include the modern genesis of the genre, from authors such as James M Cain to Gillian Flynn, allowing you to formulate your own critical response. Formative work, largely comprising of online presentations (for example, Powerpoint, or a Word document, and are not 'live'), will be assessed throughout the year and you will have a summative piece of work which will be a critical essay.




Writers are readers as well, and increasingly operate within the public realm. Attendance at literary events and festivals, profile raising and networking, are now often expected activities of the professional writer. During this module there will be three brief residential periods. You will attend masterclasses (conducted by visiting writers), the obligatory seminars, plus informal readings (from tutors and visiting writers), and events featuring industry professionals (during the annual agent and publisher evening).




You will study the theoretical and practical study of devices employed in the writing of crime fiction (such as suspense, pacing, characterisation, purpose, structure and prose style), while looking at a variety of fictional and critical texts and extracts. Formative work, largely comprising writing exercises, and discussion boards, will allow you to experiment, and solidify positions, and will be assessed by the tutor and your peers throughout the year. Summative work will be a contextualising essay, on an aspect or aspects of the craft and theory of writing crime fiction, while it could also situate your creative project.



Students must study the following modules for 110 credits:

Name Code Credits


Through close supervision during the year, by a primary and secondary supervisor, you will have the opportunity to complete a full length crime novel. There will also be numerous formative assignments, online supervisions, tutorials and peer workshopping opportunities, along with residential workshops.




Writers are readers as well, and increasingly operate within the public realm. Attendance at literary events and festivals, profile raising and networking, are now often expected activities of the professional writer. This module will comprise the attendance of three brief residential periods annually. Students will attend masterclasses (conducted by visiting writers), the obligatory seminars, plus informal readings (from tutors and visiting writers), and events featuring industry professionals (during the annual agent and publisher evening).




Whilst the University will make every effort to offer the modules listed, changes may sometimes be made arising from the annual monitoring, review and update of modules and regular (five-yearly) review of course programmes. Where this activity leads to significant (but not minor) changes to programmes and their constituent modules, there will normally be prior consultation of students and others. It is also possible that the University may not be able to offer a module for reasons outside of its control, such as the illness of a member of staff or sabbatical leave. In some cases optional modules can have limited places available and so you may be asked to make additional module choices in the event you do not gain a place on your first choice. Where this is the case, the University will endeavour to inform students.

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Entry Requirements

  • Degree Subject UK BA (Hons) 2:1 or equivalent preferred but not essential.
  • Special Entry Requirements Sample of work - see below

Students for whom English is a Foreign language

We welcome applications from students whose first language is not English. To ensure such students benefit from postgraduate study, we require evidence of proficiency in English. Our usual entry requirements are as follows:

  • IELTS: 7.0 (minimum 6.0 in each section and 7.0 in writing)
  • PTE (Pearson): 68 (minimum 55 in each section and 68 in writing)

Test dates should be within two years of the course start date.

Other tests, including Cambridge English exams and the Trinity Integrated Skills in English are also accepted by the university. The full list of accepted tests can be found here: Accepted English Language Tests

INTO UEA also run pre-sessional courses which can be taken prior to the start of your course. For further information and to see if you qualify please contact


Promising candidates will be invited for a Skype interview with a member of the Creative Writing faculty and we aim to inform candidates of the outcome within five working days. Unsuccessful candidates are welcome to re-apply, though not within the same academic year. Successful candidates will either be offered a place for the forthcoming academic year or a place for the following academic year (if it is felt that they need more time to develop as a writer). Once the forthcoming year is ‘full’ candidates will be offered a place on our reserve list with the option of a place for the following academic year if a place does not become available.

Please note that those candidates offered a place on the course for the forthcoming academic year will not be able to defer their offer to the next year if they are unable to take up the offer of a place, however they are welcome to reapply the next year.

Special Entry Requirements

Candidates will be expected to submit a portfolio of writing for assessment of between 3000 and 5000 words, which could be part of a novel in progress or a piece or pieces of short fiction. This does not have to be crime writing focused but must be prose fiction.


The School's annual intake is in September of each year.

Alternative Qualifications

If you have alternative qualifications that have not been mentioned above then please contact the Admissions Office directly for further information.

Fees and Funding

Tuition fees for the full two years part-time course for entry in the academic year 2018/19 are:

  • UK/EU Students: £7,550
  • International Students: £15,800


There are a variety of scholarships and studentships available to postgraduate applicants in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. For further information please see the School of Literature and Creative Writing.

How to Apply

Applications for Postgraduate Taught programmes at the University of East Anglia should be made directly to the University.

You can apply online.

Please note that the closing date for receipt of complete applications (including all documentation and references) is 1 June 2018. However, the course may be full before the closing date and so candidates are advised to apply as early as possible.

Further Information

To request further information & to be kept up to date with news & events please use our online enquiry form.

If you would like to discuss your individual circumstances prior to applying please do contact us:

Postgraduate Admissions Office
Tel: +44 (0)1603 591515

International candidates are also encouraged to access the International Students section of our website.

    Next Steps

    We can’t wait to hear from you. Just pop any questions about this course into the form below and our enquiries team will answer as soon as they can.

    Admissions enquiries: or
    telephone +44 (0)1603 591515