Academic Requirements for an MFA Degree at UVA

To receive the degree of Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, a student accepted into the UVA Graduate School of Arts and Sciences completes a 48 credit hour, four-semester (two-academic-year) program at the University of Virginia. Applicants can view current and historical course offerings on Lou's List:

CW Courses

Standard Coursework

A UVA MFA's standard* single semester courseload is twelve credit hours:

  • Three hours of MFA workshop (ENCW 7310 or ENCW 7610)
  • Three hours of a graduate-level literature course taught by a creative writing faculty member
    (ENGN 8510/8520 or an ENSP above the 5000 level)
  • Six hours of non-topical research (ENCW 8999)
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In an MFA's first spring semester at UVA, they also take a one-credit pedagogy class, ENPG 8800, which meets once a week for fifty minutes. The pedagogy course helps MFAs design a creative writing course that meets university, department, and program requirements, and also includes MFA observations of current 2300/2600 sections as well as master lectures by the faculty.


Deviating from Standard Coursework

MFA students can deviate from this standard coursework, but they are required to complete our program's Deviation Form, gathering the required faculty and staff approvals and signatures before the semester's drop deadline. It is the student's responsibility to make sure their courses fulfill all program and graduation requirements.

The literature courses our MFAs usually take are listed above. However, MFA students can substitute approved graduate-level coursework in the English Department, approved graduate-level courses from other departments, or approved graduate-level independent studies in literature for the standard MFA literature courses. Please submit a Deviation Form to complete your registration. MFAs can take 5000-level workshops in the alternate genre for some of their literature credits (i.e. students in our fiction track can take ENCW 5310; poets can take ENCW 5610). Undergraduate courses cannot be used to fufill any of our graduate-level requirements and must be taken at the student's own expense.

Our MFAs generally preserve their non-topical research hours as time to work on their theses, but a new UVA graduate tuition model allows our MFAs to exchange, at no charge, some of their non-topical research hours for additional graduate-level academic courses. While exercising this new registration flexibility is very tempting, students should remember that they came here to work on their writing, not to take a broad swath of coursework. Also, please remember that graduate-level coursework comes with extensive reading and writing requirements: a "three hour" graduate-level course usually requires far more time than most undergraduate courses. MFA students cannot exchange their non-topical hours for undergraduate coursework and there is no "tuition waiver" for undergraduate coursework. MFA students should also remember that they need to maintain a twelve credit-hour per semester courseload to remain a full-time graduate student: if you sign up for an additional three-credit literature course, for example, you only reduce your non-topical hours to three (you do not drop all six hours).

There is no foreign language requirement or proficiency exam for the degree of Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.  

Our MFA funding is restricted to just two academic years of a standard courseload at UVA, which means that if an MFA student does not satisfy our program requirements while at UVA, they may have to take additional courses, at their own expense, to earn a degree.

MFA Thesis

All MFAs must complete and defend a thesis prior to graduation. The project must comprise a substantial body of original writing--approximately a hundred pages of fiction (a draft novel or a short story collection), or approximately thirty poems. 

Final Oral Examination

When the writing project (thesis) has been completed and conditionally approved, the candidate for the degree will take a one-hour oral examination.

For poets:

A one-hour discussion of the thesis as it relates both to its own themes and the larger tradition of poetry in English. For example, discussion might center on themes, techniques, or influences. To help us organize the oral examination, the candidate is encouraged to submit a brief list of poets or other writers whose work has influenced the project.

For fiction writers:

Using the thesis as a starting point, the candidate should be prepared to discuss such matters as plot, characterization, point of view, the relation of action to reflection, and other questions of narrative technique. To help us organize the oral examination, the candidate is encouraged to submit a brief list of story writers or novelists whose work has influenced the project.

Thesis Archiving

Like all other graduate theses at the University of Virginia, MFA theses must be uploaded to an online repository, Libra, at the University of Virginia Library prior to an MFA's graduation. Students have the option to place up to a five-year embargo on their creative work, which only allows users on the UVA network to access the thesis until the embargo period ends. Students do not give up any rights they hold to the thesis deposited. Students do not give up the right to submit the thesis to other repositories or publish it elsewhere. Full details of the Libra Deposit License are posted here.  Please consult the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences website for additional information on graduation and thesis requirements.

More MFA Program Info

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