Postgraduate study

Playwriting MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Playwriting

Led by award-winning playwright Nicola McCartney, our MSc in Playwriting is unique in the UK for its level of contact with the theatre industry. It will appeal to emerging playwrights, directors, dramaturges, performance artists and critics.

Completed over one year (full-time), or two years (part-time), the programme focuses not only on the craft of writing for performance, but also on how a script plays out in real space and time, and in front of an audience.

You will be taught through a dynamic combination of seminars, workshops, one-to-one supervision and professional masterclasses by some of Europe’s leading playwrights and theatre artists. Previous and regular collaborators include world famous and award-winning practitioners such as Cora Bissett, Sir Michael Boyd, Gregory Burke, Kai Fischer, Tanika Gupta, Philip Howard, Rosie Kellagher, Lucy Kirkwood, Matthew Lenton, Linda McLean, Orla O'Loughlin, Adura Onashile, Robin Soanes and John Tiffany.

A core component of the degree is a series of workshops, facilitated by Playwrights' Studio Scotland, to develop your own work with professional actors and directors, culminating in a public, professional reading of your work-in-progress at the internationally renowned Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Edinburgh is a theatre city, home to the world’s largest theatre festival and a lively, thriving and diverse year-round theatre scene.

As a student on the Playwriting MSc programme, you’ll benefit from established links with leading theatres and organisations, including Traverse Theatre, Scotland’s new writing theatre, the Royal Lyceum, one of the UK’s leading repertory theatres, and Playwrights' Studio Scotland.

The University of Edinburgh has a long and rich tradition of student drama. Based in Bedlam Theatre, the oldest student-run theatre in the UK, the Edinburgh University Theatre Company has helped to develop an array of outstanding theatrical talent over the years, with alumni making reputations and careers in professional theatre.

By the end of the programme, you will have written at least two short works and one full-length piece for live performance.

The MSc in Playwriting is taught through a combination of seminars, workshops, independent study, one-to-one supervision and professional masterclasses. There are also regular theatre visits.

Over the programme’s duration, you’ll take three core courses, and one optional course chosen from a wide range of subjects. You’ll be assessed through a combination of portfolio work and essays.

The two core courses on ‘The Craft of the Playwright’ are worth 40 credits each; the core course on ‘Time and Space of Performance’ is worth 20 credits, as is the optional course.

The final element of the programme is your dissertation, a 100 minute, full-length play (worth 60 credits), written with the advice and support of the Programme Director, and developed through two, week-long workshops and readings with a professional director and actors. The second of these will include a live, public, rehearsed reading of your work-in-progress as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Students who successfully complete this programme will:

  • be introduced to and become skilled in a range of applied methods for the development and structuring of dramatic script for live performance
  • develop a knowledge and understanding of writing for different kinds of performance contexts from the single-authored play to devised work
  • develop a knowledge and understanding of the theory, methodology and practice of writing different genres from tragedy and comedy to political theatre
  • develop self-motivation and the focus necessary to work as an independent artist within the theatre industry
  • develop their critical skills as readers of their own and others’ work and as creators and consumers of live performance
  • develop a familiarity with the professional development and production processes of live performance and how these impact on the making of script

Unique in the UK for its level of engagement with industry, our MSc in Playwriting is an immersive introduction to the theatre scene in Edinburgh, Scotland and internationally.

Over the course of the programme, you’ll explore your individual creative voice, developing the self-motivation and focus necessary to work as an independent artist within the theatre industry. Not only will you develop in the craft of playwriting, but in the transferable skills of dramaturgy, script analysis and working through devising.

On completion, you will have written at least two short works and one full-length piece for live performance and had your work read in public at Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The transferable skills you will gain, such as communication, research and project management, will be valuable to your career development whatever path you choose, including advanced study, if it interests you. Our graduates have gone on to be professional playwrights but also to careers in arts management, journalism, performance art, screenwriting, teaching and socially-engaged arts practice.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a relevant discipline or equivalent professional experience.

Applicants who are entered into selection will be asked to provide a sample of written work to enable their suitability for the programme to be assessed.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.5 in each module)

  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 23 in each module)

  • PTE Academic: total 67 (at least 61 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections)

  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 176 in each module)

  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.*

(*Revised 8/11/2018 to provide more accurate information on English language qualifications expiry dates. Revised 22/03/2019 to provide more accurate/comprehensive information.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Read our general information on tuition fees and studying costs:

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments. The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on your programme, the duration of your studies, and your residency status. (Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.)

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Programme Director, Nicola McCartney
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 3629
  • Graduate School
  • School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • Room 1.13, 50 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LH

In addition to the supporting documents requested on the application form, you must supply a portfolio of writing for live performance of about 45 minutes’ playing time. You should make a selection of extracts from your writing rather than sending full scripts.

You also need to send a personal statement outlining relevant experience, particular writing interests and why you want to study writing for theatre.

All supporting documents, including references, must be uploaded to the online application system by the deadline date.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Programme Director, Nicola McCartney
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 3629
  • Graduate School
  • School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • Room 1.13, 50 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LH