MST Creative Writing - The University of Oxford Watch

Klogan
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Has anyone else here applied for this course? I can't seem to find much on TSR or Gradcafe.
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RobTar
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(Original post by Klogan)
Has anyone else here applied for this course? I can't seem to find much on TSR or Gradcafe.
Hi there! I've applied and am up for interview next week for the Oxford MSt. How are things going on your end?
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Klogan
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(Original post by RobTar)
Hi there! I've applied and am up for interview next week for the Oxford MSt. How are things going on your end?
I applied in the first round and got a rejection after the interview. Good luck with yours! Mine was okay. The questions weren't difficult. I have really bad anxiety though and go into autopilot in intense situations so I think that was my downfall... Have you published anything?
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RobTar
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Oh, I’m sorry to hear about your interview - it happens to the best of us. I went for a PhD interview years ago and remember completely just blanking out on all words for a good minute (an eternity when a panel of 5 academics are staring lasers at you). Interviews are of debatable value, I think - how can you judge a writer based on his/her ability to speak under pressure, right? Anyway—I have not had a published book but am a working editorial writer. It’s hard to say what it is they’re looking for, but I do know that there’s a difference between Oxford and Cambridge (I’ve just interviewed for the latter’s CW MSt last week). Cam tends to seek out a balanced, diverse cohort from different experiences, backgrounds, and ages for the course to build a solid community of writers and depth of practice; I think Ox is more specifically directed towards career/publishing success. Both are good depending on what you want, of course. Have you looked into Cambridge’s programme?
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Klogan
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(Original post by RobTar)
Oh, I’m sorry to hear about your interview - it happens to the best of us. I went for a PhD interview years ago and remember completely just blanking out on all words for a good minute (an eternity when a panel of 5 academics are staring lasers at you). Interviews are of debatable value, I think - how can you judge a writer based on his/her ability to speak under pressure, right? Anyway—I have not had a published book but am a working editorial writer. It’s hard to say what it is they’re looking for, but I do know that there’s a difference between Oxford and Cambridge (I’ve just interviewed for the latter’s CW MSt last week). Cam tends to seek out a balanced, diverse cohort from different experiences, backgrounds, and ages for the course to build a solid community of writers and depth of practice; I think Ox is more specifically directed towards career/publishing success. Both are good depending on what you want, of course. Have you looked into Cambridge’s programme?
It’s the absolute worst, and I agree that interviews are of debatable value. I spend so much time alone in solitude, it’s difficult to suddenly become a speaker. I suppose part of the interview for this particular programme is to see how you’d be in a group situation workshopping. In all honesty I’d probably be a bit awkward to begin with, but with time I’d become more comfortable.

I’m also a working editorial writer. I haven’t published a book yet, but I definitely intend to do so. I would say I have a good chance of accomplishing that given my bylines, so Oxford’s response was a little disappointing.

What gave you that impression regarding Oxford and Cambridge? I haven’t looked into Cambridge really, mainly because I prefer Oxford as a city.

If you got both places, which would you lean towards? And how was the Cambridge interview? I may consider applying for next year...
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RobTar
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I’ve spoken to a couple of alums from both programmes, and that’s the impression I got from them. In general, as well, Oxford tends to be, in character, a bit more extroverted, career-oriented; Cambridge is introverted, interested in the process of theory and in abstraction. They of course both have these qualities in general...just in different ratios. The Cambridge programme is my first choice because the class sizes are smaller, with less emphasis on output (about half the amount of words written per year vs Oxford), because the idea is to build up your thought process and research/conceptual ability as a writer. It’s a different approach. The residencies tend to be a bit longer at Cambridge, too, and there is no internship in the second year (again, career emphasis at Oxford). It’s a personal preference, basically - what is important to you? The Cambridge interview was lovely - the entire application process from Open House to post-interview is very responsive, friendly, and personal. You know how the Oxford interview invite said things like “you will be assessed for your suitability”? The Cambridge approach was not that at all. Their invitation was “it will be an informal conversation which will give you the chance to learn more about the programme and will allow us to chat with you about your influences, ambitions, and wider reading”. That alone was enough for me; Cambridge is my first choice just because it’s a better fit for who I am as a person. But I wouldn’t turn down Oxford if I didn’t get into Cam! Highly recommend that you look into it Best of luck!
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Klogan
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(Original post by RobTar)
I’ve spoken to a couple of alums from both programmes, and that’s the impression I got from them. In general, as well, Oxford tends to be, in character, a bit more extroverted, career-oriented; Cambridge is introverted, interested in the process of theory and in abstraction. They of course both have these qualities in general...just in different ratios. The Cambridge programme is my first choice because the class sizes are smaller, with less emphasis on output (about half the amount of words written per year vs Oxford), because the idea is to build up your thought process and research/conceptual ability as a writer. It’s a different approach. The residencies tend to be a bit longer at Cambridge, too, and there is no internship in the second year (again, career emphasis at Oxford). It’s a personal preference, basically - what is important to you? The Cambridge interview was lovely - the entire application process from Open House to post-interview is very responsive, friendly, and personal. You know how the Oxford interview invite said things like “you will be assessed for your suitability”? The Cambridge approach was not that at all. Their invitation was “it will be an informal conversation which will give you the chance to learn more about the programme and will allow us to chat with you about your influences, ambitions, and wider reading”. That alone was enough for me; Cambridge is my first choice just because it’s a better fit for who I am as a person. But I wouldn’t turn down Oxford if I didn’t get into Cam! Highly recommend that you look into it Best of luck!
Thanks for sharing. That's really encouraging and I may apply next year. It sounds like a better match. I'm a real introvert (as I suppose most writers are?). I didn't really know too much about either programme to begin with, to be honest. I thought they were pretty similar in approach given the residency format.

I was very intimidated by: "you will be assessed for your suitability." The interview was conducted in a large room (to replicate the workshop format I guess) and the two interviewers were sat far apart from me. I understand I might not be a team player at first glance, but like most anxious/introverted people I warm up. I would love it if they tried to change the system first, rather than only taking on people who seem like they will fit in.

I love the city of Oxford, the amenities of the colleges and university itself. But having US courses as a comparison, what I find strange about Oxford is the randomness of the faculty. They're published authors, but not well-known. I always heard you should learn from people who've accomplished what you want to accomplish. I suppose people can be great teachers though? But UEA, Bath Spa and Manchester all seem to have very strong faculties.

I should look into Cambridge as it sounds a lot friendlier and more willing to adapt. Have you read the work of anyone teaching?
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RobTar
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Ah. That does sound awful (large room? What on Earth for?). Mine in Cambridge was in a small, book-lined room in front of a fireplace, me and two interviewers sat about 3 feet apart from each other. It was lovely - only thing missing to complete the picture was tea! I think Oxford is just different that way- they tend to be much more formal, much more structured in approach. I think what draws me to Ox and Cam as opposed to UEA or others is the access to the rest of the university, especially at Cambridge, where you can attend almost any lecture and use almost any library as a student. That kind of access is tremendous for the budding research stages of any writing project, as is the general effect of a degree from Oxbridge vs other universities. I’m afraid I don’t feel as confident about other unis in that aspect, and I’m not totally convinced that famous/well-known writers are necessarily pedagogically skilled. In the end, it’s a very personal undertaking, and it’s best to really figure out which one feels like the best fit while still keeping you on your toes! As for the Cambridge tutors - they are all multiple-published, all educated at the university; the main tutors’ interests and publications also fit my interests and learning needs well (so again, a personal choice). It’s worth a look! As for the Oxford programme - I do think there are benefits, of course, to their approach and outlook, and even the class size; in the end, though, it’s not quite as good a fit for me. Anyway, best of luck - if you do decide to apply to Cambridge and have any questions, feel free to send me a private message. I’ve just received an offer of place!
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Last edited by RobTar; 6 days ago
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Klogan
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(Original post by RobTar)
Ah. That does sound awful (large room? What on Earth for?). Mine in Cambridge was in a small, book-lined room in front of a fireplace, me and two interviewers sat about 3 feet apart from each other. It was lovely - only thing missing to complete the picture was tea! I think Oxford is just different that way- they tend to be much more formal, much more structured in approach. I think what draws me to Ox and Cam as opposed to UEA or others is the access to the rest of the university, especially at Cambridge, where you can attend almost any lecture and use almost any library as a student. That kind of access is tremendous for the budding research stages of any writing project, as is the general effect of a degree from Oxbridge vs other universities. I’m afraid I don’t feel as confident about other unis in that aspect, and I’m not totally convinced that famous/well-known writers are necessarily pedagogically skilled. In the end, it’s a very personal undertaking, and it’s best to really figure out which one feels like the best fit while still keeping you on your toes! As for the Cambridge tutors - they are all multiple-published, all educated at the university; the main tutors’ interests and publications also fit my interests and learning needs well (so again, a personal choice). It’s worth a look! As for the Oxford programme - I do think there are benefits, of course, to their approach and outlook, and even the class size; in the end, though, it’s not quite as good a fit for me. Anyway, best of luck - if you do decide to apply to Cambridge and have any questions, feel free to send me a private message. I’ve just received an offer of place!
Amazing! Congratulations on getting the place! You must be soooo relieved. Cambridge looks really good. Now there’s no need to feel worried about your Oxford interview Good luck with it anyway.

I was drawn by Oxbridge’s facilities too. Having access to all those libraries, open lectures and societies is incredible.

Hmm. Personally, I don’t think you can actually teach people to write. I know—why would I even consider applying? I think writing requires talent, perseverance and a lot of reading, but you can probably fast track your progress initially through a creative writing course. I wanted to do a MA in creative writing more for the accountability, having the permission to write, the university amenities, and for the mentors I’d meet (among peers, too). I don’t know whether someone who hasn’t accomplished what you want to accomplish can help you do so, however good their teaching abilities. I suppose that’s just an opinion though!

Thanks for the offer, I will get in touch if and when I apply for Cambridge. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the course when it starts! You might have sold it to me...
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RobTar
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Great, good to chat to you, and best of luck!
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BradCohen
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Anyone still waiting (March deadline) to hear back? Haven't had an interview or rejection yet...
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