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UEA scholarships nurture talented writers

Ian McEwan at UEA

The University of East Anglia (UEA) is home to the most prestigious Creative Writing programme in the UK – and, arguably, the world. In 2017 the course is offering eight donor-funded postgraduate scholarships, meaning more than a quarter of the 30 available places are funded.

“Our aim is to widen opportunity for the most talented writers, which is why scholarships in this field are so important,” said co-director Henry Sutton. “Up to half of our students are from overseas and their average age is 30. Many have had careers in different fields, which means they bring a wealth of experience in addition to their desire to hone their creative writing skills.”

Competition for places is extremely tough, so the standard of students is high. Their background is also diverse. “Our aim is to nurture the greatest talent, not just from the UK but worldwide,” said Henry. “Some scholarships are aimed specifically at international students, one is directed at students from the Republic of Ireland, and others are open to anyone.”

Co-director Jean McNeil added: “It’s the talent and commitment of our students that make our Creative Writing courses stand out. We help them to find their voice as a writer but they also build a long-lasting and invaluable network that endures far beyond the year they spend here in Norwich. It’s a truly life-changing experience.”

“Creative writing is a powerful vehicle,” said Henry. “The world revolves around empathy, and an appreciation of literature is culturally invaluable because it enriches us and gives us understanding.”

“The programme was founded in 1970 by novelists and former UEA professors Sir Malcolm Bradbury and Sir Angus Wilson, and well-known alumni who regularly return to speak to students include Kazuo Ishiguro and Ian McEwan - testament to the strength of the connections forged,” added Jean. “These are also illustrated by the donor scholarships, many of which are funded by alumni via The Difference Campaign, which has raised more than £50,000,000 in philanthropic support for the University since it was launched in 2013.”

Leading UK literary trust the Booker Prize Foundation and London literary agency David Higham Associates fund scholarships, as do personal donors like David and Sarah Kowitz, who provide a £10,000 award for a student who demonstrates financial need.

Annabel Abbs, award-winning author of “The Joyce Girl”, is clear about what motivated her to offer a scholarship. After being invited by UEA to meet John Boyne, author of “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” and a fellow UEA alumnus and scholarship donor, she said: “I realised the world would be a poorer and less humane place without authors like John Boyne. Following my personal struggle to write a novel, everything fell into place and I decided to fund a scholarship for an MA in Creative Writing. I really believe the Arts play a profound role in creating a more thoughtful, diverse, empathetic world.”

Fiona Sinclair, the Annabel Abbs scholar, said: “It’s made me see myself as a serious and committed writer, rather than a hobby I do on the weekends.”

Booker Prize Foundation scholar Alake Pilgrim added that the programme stood out not only because of its alumni but because it “includes writers from the wider Commonwealth, with a breadth of international experience that makes this MA rich and unique.”

With well over a third of graduates going on to have their work accepted by leading publishers, the course has the highest success rate in the country, and the University’s innovative approach contributes to keeping it that way. “Our courses are intense but it’s also important to us that they’re accessible, so we deliver our MA in Crime Fiction largely online,” said Henry. “It means there’s even more opportunity for talented writers to follow their passion.”

To apply for a scholarship, complete a course application by 1 May and scholarship application by 15 May. Go to the website for further information.