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Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (MFA)

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Creative Writers are at the heart of our cultural industries. Poets, novelists, screenwriters, playwrights, graphic novelists, magazine writers: they entertain, inform and inspire. For more than 50 years, UBC’s Creative Writing program has been producing writers who’ve shaped Canadian and international culture. A studio program with the writing workshop at its heart, the MFA focuses on the work created by students as the primary text. Through intensive peer critique and craft discussion, faculty and students work together with the same goal: literary excellence. 

For specific program requirements, please refer to the departmental program website

What makes the program unique?

UBC’s Creative Writing program was the first writing program in Canada, and is the largest and most comprehensive in the country. It is highly ranked internationally, and draws students from around the world for its multi-genre approach to writing instruction. Students are required to work in multiple genres during the course of the degree. As a fine arts program rather than an English program, students focus on the practice of writing rather than the study of literature.

Small, intensive workshops characterize the program, as does our breadth of offerings: with 12 genres of writing available for study there are more opportunities for learning than at any other writing program in the world.

Faculty are distinguished, working writers. We have 12 professors, an additional 9 permanent instructors and regularly bring in a wide variety of writers in residence and adjunct instructors from the writing community.

The Creative Writing program is one of the best programs in the country and I was really honoured to be accepted. I really appreciate the talented faculty, the wide range of workshops available, and the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful community!

ubc mfa creative writing

Fiona Revill

Quick Facts

Program enquiries, admission information & requirements, program instructions.

The residency MFA program only has a September intake.

1) Check Eligibility

Minimum academic requirements.

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies establishes the minimum admission requirements common to all applicants, usually a minimum overall average in the B+ range (76% at UBC). The graduate program that you are applying to may have additional requirements. Please review the specific requirements for applicants with credentials from institutions in:

  • Canada or the United States
  • International countries other than the United States

Each program may set higher academic minimum requirements. Please review the program website carefully to understand the program requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitive process.

English Language Test

Applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must provide results of an English language proficiency examination as part of their application. Tests must have been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of your application.

Minimum requirements for the two most common English language proficiency tests to apply to this program are listed below:

TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language - internet-based

Overall score requirement : 90

IELTS: International English Language Testing System

Overall score requirement : 6.5

Other Test Scores

Some programs require additional test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Test (GMAT). The requirements for this program are:

The GRE is not required.

2) Meet Deadlines

September 2024 intake, application open date, canadian applicants, international applicants, deadline explanations.

Deadline to submit online application. No changes can be made to the application after submission.

Deadline to upload scans of official transcripts through the applicant portal in support of a submitted application. Information for accessing the applicant portal will be provided after submitting an online application for admission.

Deadline for the referees identified in the application for admission to submit references. See Letters of Reference for more information.

3) Prepare Application


All applicants have to submit transcripts from all past post-secondary study. Document submission requirements depend on whether your institution of study is within Canada or outside of Canada.

Letters of Reference

A minimum of three references are required for application to graduate programs at UBC. References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualifications.

Statement of Interest

Many programs require a statement of interest , sometimes called a "statement of intent", "description of research interests" or something similar.


Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their thesis supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.

Instructions regarding thesis supervisor contact for Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (MFA)

Citizenship verification.

Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.

4) Apply Online

All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.

Tuition & Financial Support

Financial support.

Applicants to UBC have access to a variety of funding options, including merit-based (i.e. based on your academic performance) and need-based (i.e. based on your financial situation) opportunities.

Scholarships & awards (merit-based funding)

All applicants are encouraged to review the awards listing to identify potential opportunities to fund their graduate education. The database lists merit-based scholarships and awards and allows for filtering by various criteria, such as domestic vs. international or degree level.

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA)

Many professors are able to provide Research Assistantships (GRA) from their research grants to support full-time graduate students studying under their supervision. The duties constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is considered a form of fellowship for a period of graduate study and is therefore not covered by a collective agreement. Stipends vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA)

Graduate programs may have Teaching Assistantships available for registered full-time graduate students. Full teaching assistantships involve 12 hours work per week in preparation, lecturing, or laboratory instruction although many graduate programs offer partial TA appointments at less than 12 hours per week. Teaching assistantship rates are set by collective bargaining between the University and the Teaching Assistants' Union .

Graduate Academic Assistantships (GAA)

Academic Assistantships are employment opportunities to perform work that is relevant to the university or to an individual faculty member, but not to support the student’s graduate research and thesis. Wages are considered regular earnings and when paid monthly, include vacation pay.

Financial aid (need-based funding)

Canadian and US applicants may qualify for governmental loans to finance their studies. Please review eligibility and types of loans .

All students may be able to access private sector or bank loans.

Foreign government scholarships

Many foreign governments provide support to their citizens in pursuing education abroad. International applicants should check the various governmental resources in their home country, such as the Department of Education, for available scholarships.

Working while studying

The possibility to pursue work to supplement income may depend on the demands the program has on students. It should be carefully weighed if work leads to prolonged program durations or whether work placements can be meaningfully embedded into a program.

International students enrolled as full-time students with a valid study permit can work on campus for unlimited hours and work off-campus for no more than 20 hours a week.

A good starting point to explore student jobs is the UBC Work Learn program or a Co-Op placement .

Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals

Students with taxable income in Canada may be able to claim federal or provincial tax credits.

Canadian residents with RRSP accounts may be able to use the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows students to withdraw amounts from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to finance full-time training or education for themselves or their partner.

Please review Filing taxes in Canada on the student services website for more information.

Cost Calculator

Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.

Career Options

Graduates of the MFA program have found success in varied fields related to writing and communication. The MFA qualifies graduates for teaching at the university level and many graduates have gone on to teach at colleges and universities in Canada, the United States and overseas as well as holding writing residencies. Many publish books and win literary awards. Others go on to work in publishing, and graduates have become book and magazine editors.

Although the MFA is a terminal degree, some graduates go on to further study in PhD programs in the US, UK and Australia. 

Enrolment, Duration & Other Stats

These statistics show data for the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (MFA). Data are separated for each degree program combination. You may view data for other degree options in the respective program profile.


Completion rates & times.

  • Research Supervisors

This list shows faculty members with full supervisory privileges who are affiliated with this program. It is not a comprehensive list of all potential supervisors as faculty from other programs or faculty members without full supervisory privileges can request approvals to supervise graduate students in this program.

  • Belcourt, Billy-Ray (Fiction; Nonfiction; Poetry)
  • Hopkinson, Nalo (Creative writing, n.e.c.; Humanities and the arts; Creative Writing: Speculative Ficton, Fantasy, Science Fiction, especially Other Voices)
  • Irani, Anosh
  • Koncan, Frances
  • Leavitt, Sarah (Autobiographical comics; Formal experimentation in comics; Comics pedagogy)
  • Lee, Nancy (Fiction; Creative Writing)
  • Lyon, Annabel (Novels, stories and news)
  • Maillard, Keith (Fiction, poetry)
  • Marzano-Lesnevich, Alex (Nonfiction)
  • McGowan, Sharon (Planning of film productions from concept to completion)
  • Medved, Maureen (Fiction, writing for screen)
  • Nicholson, Cecily (Languages and literature; Poetry)
  • Ohlin, Alix (Fiction; Screenwriting; Environmental writing)
  • Pohl-Weary, Emily (Fiction; Writing for Youth)
  • Svendsen, Linda (Fiction, television)
  • Taylor, Timothy (fiction and nonfiction)
  • Vigna, John (Novels, stories and news; Fiction, Literary Non-Fiction, Creative Writing)

Sample Thesis Submissions

Related programs, same specialization.

  • Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (Distance) (MFA)

Same Academic Unit

  • Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Theatre (MFA)
  • Master of Fine Arts in Film Production and Creative Writing (MFA)

At the UBC Okanagan Campus

  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Further Information


Creative Writing combines the best of traditional workshop and leading-edge pedagogy. Literary cross-training offers opportunities in a broad range of genres including fiction, poetry, screenplay, podcasting, video game writing and graphic novel.

UBC Calendar

Program website, faculty overview, academic unit, program identifier, classification, social media channels, supervisor search.

Departments/Programs may update graduate degree program details through the Faculty & Staff portal. To update contact details for application inquiries, please use this form .

ubc mfa creative writing

Vivian (Xiao Wen) Li

I really liked what the program would be offering, and I love the mountains as well as nature—I find a lot of peace and inspiration from water, wind, and clouds. While I was at an Explore Program for a month at the University of Victoria (I wanted to explore the West Coast), I managed to visit UBC...

ubc mfa creative writing

Brandi Bird

I only applied to UBC. I couldn’t justify upending my life with my partner and my cats for two years of schooling. I decided if I didn’t get in, I’d try again next year. But I was lucky! I just finished my undergraduate degree at UBC and so the familiarity of campus was and is comforting but the...

ubc mfa creative writing

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  • Prospective Students

MFA Program Options

  • Optional Summer Residency
  • How to Write a Novel
  • Writing for Video Games
  • Communications Support
  • Prize for Best New Fiction
  • Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
  • Indigenous Engagement
  • Job Opportunities

Please read the following documents in full for details on our MFA program and application guidelines. These documents provide answers to most prospective students’ questions.

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (On-Campus)

Our two-year studio course of resident study is learner-centered and workshop-driven. We offer an exciting breadth of genres, small classes and award-winning faculty, all within one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (Optional-Residency)

Our distance MFA mirrors our on-campus program and allows for part-time study. Work from anywhere in the world with our esteemed faculty and a community of dedicated fellow writers. Each year we host a popular optional summer residency at our stunning Vancouver campus.

Master of Fine Arts in Film Production and Creative Writing

The MFA in Film Production and Creative Writing is a joint program with UBC Theatre & Film and is primarily a film production degree with an additional focus on screenwriting. The final thesis for this MFA is a completed film which the student normally writes, directs and produces.

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Theatre

The MFA in Creative Writing and Theatre is a joint program with UBC Theatre & Film , where students will take courses in both the Theatre Program and the Creative Writing Program. Students must be accepted to both programs in order to take this MFA.

UBC Okanagan

UBC’s Okanagan Campus also has a Creative Writing Master of Fine Arts Degree, as part of their Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies. This is not connected to the UBC Vancouver Creative Writing Program, and faculty, courses and degree requirements are different.

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Find details about every creative writing competition—including poetry contests, short story competitions, essay contests, awards for novels, grants for translators, and more—that we’ve published in the Grants & Awards section of Poets & Writers Magazine during the past year. We carefully review the practices and policies of each contest before including it in the Writing Contests database, the most trusted resource for legitimate writing contests available anywhere.

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University of British Columbia (Distance MFA)

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MFA Program

Poetry : Susan Musgrave, Cecily Nicholson, Bronwen Tate Fiction : Anosh Irani, Nancy Lee, Annabel Lyon, Maureen Medved, Alix Ohlin, A. E. Osworth, Linda Svendsen, Timothy Taylor, John Vigna Children/YA : Emily Pohl-Weary, Jordan Scott, Tanya Kyi Nonfiction : Mandy Catron, Alex Marzano-Lesnevich Graphic Novel : Sarah Leavitt Screenwriting : Sara Graefe Playwriting: Frances Koncan Writing for Television : Zac Hug Speculative Fiction : Nalo Hopkinson Indigenous Writing : Billy-Ray Belcourt

The program offers partial funding. The program offers teaching assistantships, graduate supportive initiative scholarships, and endowed scholarships.

This Optional-Residency (Distance) MFA program was the first distance education MFA program in Canada and remains the only full MFA which can be taken completely online. The program offers courses in graphic novel writing, playwriting, writing for television, screenwriting, and writing for children. Students are required to take coursework in three genres during the degree.

Most students attend an optional ten-day residency that is offered each July at the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver.

Paulette Bourgeois, Amy Jones, Ellen Keith, Amy Stuart, Sarah Selecky, Shyam Selvadurai, Shauna Singh Baldwin, Katherena Vermette

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UBC: MFA students write their own tickets to success

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As part of the Courier’s Vancouver Special neighbourhood series we profile the University of British Columbia, where writer Steven Galloway serves as an associate professor and acting chair of the Creative Writing Program, which enters its 50th year of nurturing aspiring writers.

The phrase “publish or perish” was coined to describe the perennial pressure professors find themselves under to keep careers afloat by having their work appear in academic journals.

At UBC’s Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing, the make-or-break maxim applies to students just as much as their teachers, although their own published material isn’t limited to dry academic circles and instead runs the literary gamut from short stories to screenplays, magazine features, comic books and even the occasional bestselling novel.

It’s been 50 years since Canadian poet and novelist Earle Birney sold university administrators on the idea of creating a special program where aspiring writers could hone their craft through workshops and peer review instead of by the usual solitary trial and error.

The first creative writing program in the country has since become Canada’s biggest and most successful, regularly producing a wide variety of award-winning writers, which in recent years include Zsuzsi Gartner ( Better Living Through Plastic Explosives ), Kevin Chong ( My Year of the Racehorse ), Lee Henderson ( The Man Game ), Madeleine Thien ( Dogs at the Perimeter ) and Lynn Coady, who last November won the $50,000 Giller Prize for her short story collection Hellgoing .

The program’s instructors and guest lecturers, many of them former students, includes names more likely to be found in a Contemporary Can Lit aisle of a Chapter’s bookstore than a faculty directory.

Acting department chair Steven Galloway says some of the credit is due to the  policy of making writers study in at least three different disciplines. Options range from specializing in fiction, non-fiction, poetry, children’s literature, screenwriting, playwriting, translation, writing for radio, songwriting and libretto, manga and graphic novels, and new media.

“One of the things we do here that is very hard for a writer to get out in the world is the multi-genre thing,” said Galloway, a boyish, bespectacled 38-year-old who first came to UBC two decades ago and never left.

“I took poetry when I was an undergrad and I hated it and I’ve never written another poem again, but it made me a better writer. Most writers, left to their own devices, do the thing they are good at and avoid the thing they are not good at. Forcing people to eat their vegetables, so to speak, really does help them become a better writer and we have a pretty wide buffet to choose from.”

Classes are located on the top floor of an ugly four-storey building with wonky heating where rooms facing east are generally too warm in the winter and the ones across the hall too cold. Out of nearly 200 applications each year, only 25 are accepted, although there are also numerous writing courses offered at the undergraduate level and through distance education.

While it’s not easy to make the final cut, Galloway said students are encouraged to leave their egos at the door.

“It is competitive to get in, but once you’re in we work really hard to foster a non-competitive environment. You never do well as a writer because someone else didn’t do well. Just because I got a book published, it doesn’t mean you won’t and vice-versa. Sometimes we get students who come here because of the perception that it is a fast-track to publication or for networking and those students tend to be disappointed.”

The program also has its critics. Coady famously charged several years ago that UBC was taking a bit too much credit for its graduates’ literary accomplishments (she politely declined to comment when contacted by the Courier ) while others say the emphasis should be on mastering the craft of writing rather than trying to score lucrative book or movie deals.

“I love it here but I sometimes feel like I’m in that old TV show Fame ,” said a young BFA student who didn’t want to give her name. “There were all these super-talented kids going to this big artsy school but you only ever got to know the names of a few of the main ones. Everybody else just sort of toiled away in the background hoping to get noticed.”

Writers, who tend to be anti-authoritarian by nature, also sometimes chafe at the formal academic structure. Galloway, a Giller nominee for his 2008 bestseller The Cellist of Sarajevo , says being open to learning from others — teachers and fellow students alike — is crucial to gaining the most from the program.

“We can help writers who have hit a wall with their writing and are trying to get through that, we can provide them with opportunities to help them, but we can’t make anyone a better writer. The analogy is like coaching elite athletes. You can’t turn me into Sidney Crosby, nothing on earth can do that, but I guarantee you Sidney Crosby is better because he was coached.”

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