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Course Requirements for the MFA

  1. 12 graduate credit hours (four courses) in literature, literary theory, forms, or rhetoric/composition/language studies. ENGL 801 does not fulfill this requirement.
  2. 12 graduate credit hours (four courses) of creative writing workshops.
  3. No more than 6 credit hours may be taken at the 600-level.
  4. 7 to 9 graduate credit hours in electives or practica, chosen from graduate courses in the Department of English, or approved courses in another department.
  5. 15 hours of ENGL 899, Thesis. Original writing in prose fiction, poetry, drama, or nonfiction prose. Students who complete and are able to defend their thesis before completing the 15 hours of ENGL 899 may petition for a reduced credit degree.

Best Practices for the M.F.A. Thesis

The M.F.A. thesis consists of original writing in fiction, poetry, drama, or prose. After the fall semester of the second year, normally halfway through the program, the student asks a member of the creative writing faculty to serve as the director of the thesis. Students preparing their scholarly or creative thesis should be showing chapters or writing selections to all of their committee members as they go along, for feedback and revision suggestions. They should also meet periodically with committee members to assess their progress.


The thesis in creative writing is the culmination of the student’s training and preparation and constitutes the most significant requirement for the student to complete the program and receive the terminal degree. The thesis will consist of a portfolio of the student’s best work in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, playwriting, or some combination thereof. In completing the thesis, the student will work under the supervision of the thesis director and two other members of the faculty, at least one of whom must be in creative writing. It is required that the thesis be of publishable quality, in parts or as a whole, and be of substantial length: at least one hundred pages of prose; at least fifty pages of poetry; or at least two one-act plays or one full-length play. More specific requirements will be determined for each thesis by the thesis director and other members of the thesis committee. Toward the end of the third year, the student will present the thesis in a timely manner to their committee members, and a defense will be scheduled. The student must satisfactorily pass the thesis defense in order to receive the M.F.A. degree.


M.F.A Committee and Scheduling

To be eligible to defend, the candidate must have virtually completed coursework, and finished the thesis. It is the obligation of the candidate to advise the Graduate Director that they plan to take the thesis defense and confirm completion of coursework; this must be done at least one month before the date of the defense.


At least three calendar weeks prior to the defense date, the student will submit the final draft of the thesis to all the committee members and inform the Graduate Academic Advisor. Failure to meet this deadline will necessitate rescheduling the defense

Students with committee members who plan to attend the defense via remote technology must be aware of college policy on teleconferencing/remote participation of committee members.

If a student wants to have as a committee member a person outside the university, or a person who is not in a full-time tenure-track professorship at KU, the student must contact the graduate academic advisor as early as possible. Applications for special graduate faculty status must be reviewed by the College and Graduate Studies and can take up to 2 months to be approved. Requests for exam/defense approval will not be approved unless all committee members currently hold graduate faculty status.

The exam room is reserved for two hours to allow for committee deliberation. The defense itself is limited to no more than ninety minutes.

Although compelling arguments have been presented for eradicating the designation of "Honors" altogether, “Honors” on the written thesis is necessary for that work to be nominated for the CLAS annual competition for Outstanding MA Thesis. "Honors" will be given to theses that are rated "Outstanding" in all or most of the categories on the MFA thesis rubric.

Students cannot bring snacks, drinks, treats, or gifts for committee members to the defense. Professors should avoid the appearance of favoritism that may occur if they bring treats to some student exams but not others.

Time to Degree

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences lists maximum time to degree on their website. They are intent upon enforcing these time limits. University policy on MA program time constraints is here. Students should not expect the department to grant extensions of the above limits. Students may request a leave of absence from the College Office of Graduate Affairs; it must be renewed on a yearly basis.

Admission to the Ph.D. Program

To apply to the Ph.D. program, M.F.A. students must submit the materials required of any new applicant, including a new application form and fee. The student need not resubmit transcripts that were included in the M.F.A. application, but the applicant must submit a current KU transcript that shows all M.F.A. coursework.

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