University of Chester

Programme Specification
Modern and Contemporary Fiction MA
2017 - 2018

Master of Arts

Modern and Contemporary Fiction

Modern and Contemporary Fiction

University of Chester

University of Chester

Chester campus

Postgraduate (Taught)

Full-time and Part-time

Classroom / Laboratory,

1 year (Full-time); 2 years (Part-time)

6 Years

Annual - September




17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Arts and Humanities English

There are no relevant subject benchmarks for the Programme.


Module Assessment Board English

Wednesday 4th December 2013

  • To develop detailed knowledge and critical understanding of modern and contemporary fiction, and of the complex issues arising from its analysis.
  • To develop detailed knowledge and critical understanding of the intellectual and historical contexts of modern and contemporary fiction.
  • To promote sophisticated evaluation of current critical and theoretical positions in advanced scholarship and research on modern and contemporary fiction, and to facilitate the development of independent and original insights.
  • To create a supportive environment in which students can develop their oral and written communication skills through engagement with their tutors and peers, and to encourage critical self-reflection on this process.
  • To explore and critically analyse the range of research methods available to the student of modern and contemporary fiction.
  • To enable students to become autonomous and self-directed scholars and researchers.

Students will demonstrate in all modules a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of:

  • modern and contemporary fiction;
  • the intellectual and historical contexts of modern and contemporary fiction;
  • complex issues arising from the analysis of modern and contemporary fiction;
  • current critical and theoretical positions in advanced scholarship and research on modern and contemporary fiction;
  • the range of research methods available to the student of modern and contemporary fiction.

Students will demonstrate in all modules an ability to:

  • systematically and creatively handle complex issues arising from the analysis of modern and contemporary fiction and its intellectual and historical contexts;
  • evaluate current critical and theoretical positions in advanced scholarship and research on modern and contemporary fiction;
  • critically analyse the range of research methods available to the student of modern and contemporary fiction, and to devise research strategies appropriate to a chosen area of enquiry;
  • engage in critical self-reflection on their own oral and written communication skills.

Students will:

  • demonstrate a practical understanding of relevant research methodologies and techniques, and of their appropriate application;
  • present and disseminate their oral and written work in accordance with academic conventions.

Students will demonstrate an ability to:

  • systematically and creatively handle complex information;
  • make sound judgements in the absence of complete data;
  • analyse and critically evaluate their own findings and those of others;
  • summarise, document, report, and communicate conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences;
  • plan and complete complex tasks;
  • tackle and solve complex problems;
  • advance their own knowledge and understanding, and to develop new skills to a high level.

Students will have the transferable skills necessary for employment requiring:

  • sensitivity to language;
  • clear communication;
  • the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility;
  • decision-making in complex and unpredictable situations;
  • the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.

Students will demonstrate in all modules an ability to summarise, document, report, and communicate conclusions clearly, in oral and written form, to specialist and non-specialist audiences.

Students take five taught modules, each of which is compulsory and typically delivered by nine seminars.  EN7301 Shorter Fiction and EN7302 Novel Histories: Past, Present, Future will run concurrently, typically for nine weeks, in the autumn ‘term’ (the University no longer has terms or semesters).  EN7303 Popular Fictions and EN7304 Special Author(s)/Topic(s) will run concurrently, typically for nine weeks, in the spring ‘term’.  EN7305 Research Methods will run over five weeks in the summer ‘term’.  Full-time students will therefore typically have two seminars most weeks for a total of 23 weeks.  EN7306 Dissertation (or EN7307 Research Essay) will be taught by individual tutorial supervision, and will be completed mostly over the summer vacation period.  (Part-time students who wish to complete the MA in two years will typically take three 20-credit modules in their first year, and two 20-credit modules plus the Dissertation in their second year.)

The Programme is thus structured to develop students’ critical understanding of a wide range of modern and contemporary fiction (including shorter and longer forms, and ‘literary’ and ‘popular’ genres) and relevant research methods, before they proceed to the Dissertation (or Research Essay) that concludes the Programme.  Students will therefore be well-equipped to choose a Dissertation (or Research Essay) topic and to pursue appropriate research strategies, becoming increasingly autonomous as learners.

Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
EN7301 7 Shorter Fiction 20 Comp
EN7302 7 Novel Histories: Past, Present, Future 20 Comp
EN7303 7 Popular Fictions 20 Comp
EN7304 7 Special Author(s)/Topic(s) 20 Comp
EN7305 7 Research Methods 20 Comp
EN7306 7 Dissertation 80 Comp
EN7307 7 Research Essay 20 Optional

To be awarded Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits), students must pass three 20-credit modules or the Dissertation.
To be awarded a Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits), students must pass six 20-credit modules or two 20-credit modules and the Dissertation.
To be awarded a Master's Degree (180 credits), students must pass the Dissertation and five 20-credit modules other than the Research Essay.



A minimum of a second-class honours degree, or the equivalent, in an appropriate discipline (for example, English Literature, English Language, Creative Writing, History).  Credit exemption may be given for appropriate certified or experiential learning undertaken or completed within the previous five years (in line with the University of Chester’s policy on APL/APEL), and where the applicant can demonstrate the prior achievement of learning outcomes related to one or more of the Modern and Contemporary Fiction modules.  Admission to this Programme is subject to written application, an acceptable entry qualification profile, evidence of written work, and in some instances an interview.  Where the applicant is a recent graduate, the written work could take the form of an essay on an aspect of modern and contemporary fiction that formed part of the assessment for their undergraduate degree; other applicants may be invited to write a short essay (up to 1,500 words) on a twentieth- or twenty-first-century fiction writer of their choosing.

There are as yet no relevant subject benchmarks for the Programme.  The MA Modern and Contemporary Fiction will accord with the descriptor for a qualification at master’s level included in the QAA’s ‘Framework for Higher Education Qualifications’ (second edition, August 2008), and with the more detailed description of defining characteristics in the QAA’s ‘Master’s Degree Characteristics’ (March 2010); many of the Learning Outcomes outlined in section 23, below, are derived from these documents.  We have also considered the QAA’s overview of opinions on the possibility of developing benchmarks for academic programmes at master’s level, ‘Securing and maintaining academic standards: benchmarking M-level programmes’ (February 2006), the QAA’s ‘Report on round table discussion meeting: “UK Master’s: 2010 and Beyond”’ (December 2007), and two HEA English Subject Centre reports: Sadie Williams, ‘Postgraduate Training in Research Methods: Current Practice and Future Needs in English’ (September 2003), and Samantha Smith, ‘The Taught MA in English’ (October 2007).

Seminars; talks; tutorials; workshops; tutor-supported e-learning and private learning.

The primary method of delivery of the five taught modules will be the seminar, which may incorporate informal talks (as opposed to lectures), particularly if a guest speaker has been invited.  Workshops will be used to help develop students’ research proposals on the Research Methods module, and students may be asked to present their preliminary research findings to the group.  These methods will be complemented by individual tutorials, which will be available during tutors’ regular office hours or by appointment to support students’ private learning.  The Dissertation (or Research Essay) will be taught by one-to-one tutorial supervision.  Supplementary learning resources will be available on Moodle, and peer-to-peer learning will be enhanced by encouraging students to make use of the electronic Module Chat Forum.

Essays; portfolios; research diaries; research papers; project proposals; dissertations.

The primary methods of assessment will be the essay and dissertation.  While four of the five taught modules are assessed by essays, this should not be regarded as a limitation, since the essay is a flexible assessment method, allowing tutors to set different kinds of essay questions.  Essays have also long been established as an effective means of simultaneously assessing a range of learning outcomes, both module-specific and programme-wide.  (The learning outcomes for each module are detailed in the Full Module Descriptors, while the Programme’s learning outcomes – in the areas of Knowledge and Understanding, Thinking or Cognitive Skills, Practical Skills, Key Skills, and Transferable Professional Skills – are described in section 23 of the Programme Specification.)  The Dissertation will develop and test many of the Programme’s learning outcomes to a higher level than the essays, for example by requiring students to demonstrate deeper knowledge and to develop more sustained and complex arguments.

There are 4,000 words of assessment allocated to each of the five taught modules, while the Dissertation is 16,000 words.  These wordages are within the University’s guidelines, and are identical to those for the Department’s MA Creative Writing and MA Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture.  The amount of assessment required is thus modelled on other successful and comparable programmes, is appropriate to the discipline, and ensures parity between cognate courses.

The assessment pattern across the Programme is structured so that students write progressively longer essays.  The two modules that run concurrently during the first ‘term’, EN7301 and EN7302, each require the submission of a 1,500-word essay shortly after the mid-point of the module, followed by a 2,500-word essay to be handed in after the Christmas vacation.  This allows students to receive formative feedback on the first essay on each of these modules before they write the second, longer essay.  Students then progress to write 4,000-word essays at the end of the two modules taken concurrently between Christmas and Easter.

The Research Methods module that students take next is assessed by different methods, students submitting a 4,000-word Portfolio consisting of: a 2,000-word research diary, recording the student’s ongoing research enquiry and investigation; a 1,500-word research paper, discussing in detail key findings; and a 500-word proposal for a longer research project, indicating areas of necessary research enquiry and investigation relating to the project.  These assessments are designed to prepare students for the Dissertation, equipping them with the research skills they will need, while, in most cases, the research project outlined in the 500-word proposal will be the project pursued for the Dissertation.

Graduates of the Programme will have acquired a range of skills and competencies valuable to employers.  Those graduates who wish to continue their studies towards an MPhil or PhD will be well-equipped with both key skills and subject knowledge.  It is also recognised that some graduates of the Programme will have taken it for pleasure and personal development rather than to enhance their employment prospects or prepare for further study.The critical skills students will have acquired and developed will enable them to interpret, analyse, and evaluate very different types of textual material.  They will be expert communicators, with refined expressive and listening skills, who can present, discuss, and share their ideas and the ideas of others with individuals and groups, both fluently and sensitively.  They will be highly motivated individuals who can see complex projects through from conception to completion, working well to deadlines.  They will be able to respond well to advice and guidance, but will also be autonomous learners with a self-disciplined approach to their responsibilities.  The students will have high-level researching skills and be able to apply their knowledge and research findings practically to the completion of a range of tasks.  But they will also be reflective learners, with an ability to criticise their own work in a way likely to continue to help them develop their skills after graduation.  Most importantly, they will be highly creative and imaginative individuals capable of original thought and expression, able to solve problems and overcome difficulties whether working alone or in teams.

Such skills are clearly transferable to a whole range of professional contexts.  Some graduates may wish to proceed to a research degree.  Others will want to apply their skills to the workplace; obvious outlets include teaching, promotional work, the heritage industry, marketing, communications, administration, and customer relations, but most forms of employment require the skills that these graduates will have developed.

The Programme conforms to the University’s Equal Opportunities Policy and the appropriate Codes of Practice.  The Department of English is fully committed to the support of all its students, whatever their circumstances.  Over the years, the Department has sought advice and received training in the support of students with a wide variety of disabilities or specific needs.


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