Course Structure and Applications


Class groups consist of one tutor and up to 12 students working on a range of forms. They run on Saturday mornings from 9.30am to 12.30pm for the first three terms of the year. The fourth term is untaught, letting students focus on preparing their portfolios and working with their mentor. 

See Terms dates 2021.


Tutors introduce students to a wide range of quality writing, and encourage them to explore different forms. Students are supported to pursue their own interests, from poetry, long and short-form fiction and creative non-fiction, to memoir, theatre script, screenplay, and hybrid forms.

Students become expert readers, learn to give and receive critique, and establish their own writing practice. They also hear from guest speakers and participate in workshops by established local and visiting writers. The course is a valuable way to connect with other writers and find opportunities to participate in the local writing community. 


Each student is assigned a mentor to provide expert feedback on a small portion of their work. 


Each student prepares a full or half portfolio representing their best work, as a requirement of graduation. The portfolios are submitted in mid-October and assessed internally. Students receive written feedback on their portfolios after graduation. 

Margaret Mahy Award

Each year, a shortlist of the best portfolios is sent for external assessment, and one outstanding portfolio is given the Margaret Mahy Award to acknowledge writing excellence. See a list of Margaret Mahy Award winners


Applications open in mid-October each year. Applicants should enrol online or visit the Enrolment Centre at Hagley College. No payment is needed to enrol. The Institute will then request a cover letter and short writing sample via email. Entry to the course is competitive, and the outcome of all applications will be advised in December 2021. 

Māori Writers’ Scholarship

A Māori Writers’ Scholarship covering the full cost of a year of study is awarded annually to a new or returning student. See details of the scholarship.

Returning students

Returning students are welcome and an application process isn’t usually necessary. Contact the Director to discuss options.