When applying to the Creative Writing MA at the University of Birmingham, I knew for certain I wanted to study part-time. In 2020, I went straight into postgraduate study at Birmingham after completing my English with Creative Writing BA at the University of Nottingham. Now in my second-year of my MA, I feel that part-time study has been the best choice for me.

More time to work

My postgraduate student loan only covers my tuition fee, so I chose part-time study. This meant I could work more hours and support myself better financially. As I only study one module a term, I have a lighter workload than a full-time student who studies two. Full-time students are also restricted by Worklink to working 15 hours a week during term-time, whilst part-time students have no working limit.

My plan to work alongside my studies didn’t quite work out in my first year. I didn’t manage to get a job until May – when first year was nearly over. However, because I am part-time, it meant I had the time to volunteer. I volunteered at my local hospital to help the COVID crisis, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This volunteering also gave me valuable experience.

Over summer, I worked in retail as a Customer Service Assistant. I also worked for the University Graduate School as a Community Engagement Activity Facilitator. During summer of first year, I didn’t have to do any work for the dissertation. This meant I could work as often as I wanted.

Now I am in second year, I continue to work at my retail job every weekend and study during the week. I also recently started my new role as a PGT Ambassador for the University Graduate School. At two to three hours of work a week, it’s perfect to balance with my other commitments. It also means I can learn more about working within a university. The higher education sector is what I am looking to go into after completing my MA.

Taking care of my mental health

As a student with long-term mental health conditions, I didn’t want to risk overwhelming myself with the intense workload of a full-time course. I studied full-time for my undergraduate and although I got a good grade in the end, I missed multiple classes due to depression and had to take a leave of absence halfway through my degree. It was an extremely stressful and difficult time which meant I didn’t enjoy my university experience as much as I might have. I wanted my postgraduate experience to be different. Part-time study therefore felt like the best choice for me personally.

There is great support offered by the Student Disability Service, and there is a plethora of information on wellbeing available on the University website. I would recommend anyone struggling to take advantage of these resources, whether you are a part-time or full-time student.

More space to formulate ideas

As a writer, I have lots of ideas for projects at one time. I find it best to leave ideas for a while and let them ‘simmer’ so I can go back later to gain a fresh perspective.

My four modules and dissertation are stretched over twenty four months meaning I had more time to develop my ideas. I also only have one deadline at a time. This means I can focus more intensely on just one project at the height of the assessment period.

Whether you’re writing stories or essays, studying part-time gives you the chance to really play around with ideas and plan in more detail.

Moreover, after I finished my undergraduate degree, I didn’t immediately want to dive into another dissertation. In the second half of first year, I had to write a provisional dissertation proposal. I had a topic and loose plan, but knowing I didn’t have to commit to the idea so resolutely was comforting. As the deadline for my dissertation is only now just approaching at the end of my second year; I didn’t stress about it in first year and instead focused on my other modules. Now, as I start to turn my attention to the diss, I feel more developed as a creative and critical writer and more able to tackle the dissertation.

Laura is currently in her second year of studying a part-time MA in Creative Writing and she is currently a Postgraduate Ambassador. She has worked over summer for the University Graduate School as a Community Engagement Activity Facilitator, running Shut Up and Work sessions for Postgraduates.