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. 


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. 


Over the course of the year, each student prepares a portfolio representing their best work, as a requirement of graduation (along with regular class attendance). 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. A cover letter and short writing sample will then be requested. Entry to the course is competitive, and applications are due by the end of November. The outcome of all applications will be advised in December. Late applications may be considered until the start of Term 1, if all places have not been filled. 

Māori Writers’ Scholarship

A Māori Writers’ Scholarship covering the full cost of a year of study is awarded annually to a first-year 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.

Advanced writers’ class: In 2024, we are offering an advanced, second-year class on Saturday afternoons (1:30-4:30pm) for students who have already completed at least one year at Hagley Writers’ Institute to further extend their writing skills.

Online option: For students living outside of Canterbury we will be offering an online Tuesday evening class (6:30-9:30pm) via Zoom in 2024, following the same format as the Saturday morning option.

All classes need a minimum number of students to run.

Term dates 2024 (dates dependent on festivals and other events)

Term 1 (7 weeks)

  • 10, 17, 24 Feb
  • 2, 9, 16, 23 March

    Term 2 (7 weeks)
  • 4, 11, 18, 25 May
  • 8, 15, 22 June (no class 1st June – King’s birthday weekend)

Term 3  (6 weeks)

  • 27 July
  • 3, 10, 17, 24, no class 31 August (WORD festival dates)
  • 7 September

Portfolios due 12th October 2024

Tuesday evening online classes run on the Tuesday following each Saturday.