MFA Curriculum

MFA Curriculum

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 twenty-four hours of required coursework and up to forty-eight hours of nontopical research. Applicants can view current and historical course offerings on Lou's List:



MFA Curriculum and Thesis Flowchart

A UVA MFA's standard* single semester courseload is twelve credit hours. In their first two years, MFAs typically take

  • Three hours of MFA workshop (ENCW 7310 or ENCW 7610)
  • Three hours of a graduate-level literature course in the English Department
  • Six hours of non-topical research (ENCW 8999)

To help our students fulfill their literature requirement, our program tries to offer reading- and craft-focused courses (ENGL 8596/8598) each term, but there are semesters where we cannot staff offerings in both genres, and in rare cases cannot offer courses in either genre. In those semesters, we encourage our students to take graduate literature courses offered by other faculty in the English Department.

* In an MFA's first spring semester at UVA, they also take a two-credit section of a pedagogy seminar, ENGL 8900, which meets once a week for fifty minutes. The pedagogy seminar helps MFAs design a creative writing course that meets university, department, and program requirements, and also includes MFA observations of current 2300/2600 sections. Students choosing to stay for a third year are required to take a three-credit pedagogy course in rhetoric and composition in the spring of their second year.


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.

With approval, MFAs can sometimes substitute graduate-level courses from other departments for their literature course. Please submit a Deviation Form to complete your registration. MFAs can also 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), pending advisor and program approval.

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 courses, pending advisor and program approval. MFA students can also audit up to one course a semester, again pending advisor and program approval. Students can sometimes take undergraduate courses in addition to their required graduate coursework if they take those undergraduate courses in a graded or credit/no-credit status and can demonstrate the course will enhance a writing project.

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

MFA students who do not satisfy our program requirements during their normal course of study at UVA may have to take additional courses at their own expense to earn their MFA degree. Students who delay thesis submission beyond our normal timeframes may have to pay small administrative fees to file for their degree completion.


All MFAs must complete and defend a thesis just prior to their graduation. The thesis project comprises a substantial body of original writing, the core of a publishable work—approximately a hundred pages of fiction (a draft novel or a short story collection), or approximately thirty poems. Our thesis process requires early submission of a thesis draft and work with a thesis advisor and readers. Students graduating in their second year have most of their major thesis deadlines in the spring of that second year on a compressed schedule. Students opting to stay for a third year have more time to revise and will submit a substantial draft in the fall of that third year.


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


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, the 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.


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.


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. At present, our MFA students have the option to place up to a ten-year restriction on their creative work, which only allows users on the UVA network to access the materials. 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.