'Publishers put our scripts to the top of the pile'

March 12, 2004

Bath Spa University College runs some of the most successful creative writing courses in the country, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

As well as a taught MA, which attracts about 40 students, the college runs a successful PhD programme.

In common with most creative writing courses, it is taught and run by awardwinning writers.

Course director Richard Kerridge, a nature writer, said: "When recruiting students our focus is on their writing skills. On the MA course, we have taken students without first degrees if the quality of their writing is outstanding."

Lecturer Steve May is a television and radio scriptwriter. "Creative writing began as a module on the teacher training programme for English in the early 1980s. It proved enormously popular. What was once driven by a small number of enthusiastic staff is now driven by strong student demand," he said.

While the MA continues to attract mature students, this is not the case on the undergraduate course. In 2002-03, per cent of Bath Spa's intake of creative writing students were aged over 25, and 23 per cent between 20 and 24. This year both these groups dropped to 17 per cent, while the percentage of 18 to19-year-olds increased from 50 per cent to 66 per cent.

Dr May said: "The fall-off in mature students is a terrible loss. One of the attractions of creative writing was to teach mature students."

Tania Hershman spent ten years working as a science and technology journalist before enrolling on the MA at Bath Spa.

"What is exciting is to be among a community of writers. We have six months of workshops in which we critique each other's writing. It is invaluable," she said.

Students on the MA course read and critique a book a week and produce a major work of 35,000 words.

"We are visited by publishers and agents. We've been told that if a publisher receives a script from a student on these courses, they put it to the top of the pile," she said.

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