RLF Fellowship Scheme

The Royal Literary Fund Fellowship scheme was set up to place professional writers in higher education institutions to offer writing support to all students as Writing Fellows.

The principal aim of the Fellow’s work is to foster good writing practice across disciplines and media. Each post is hosted by a particular department, which may be an academic department/faculty (either in Arts or Sciences) or a central department such as learning development.

About the Fellowship Scheme

Students meet the Fellow on a purely voluntary basis, although they may initially be responding to a tutor’s recommendation. Typically, a student will see the Fellow, one-to-one, for up to an hour. Students book into an available slot in the Fellow’s published timetable; they might just come once, or may return several times during the year, as long as the Fellow feels progress is being made.

Students are discouraged from asking the Fellow to edit or correct work before it is handed in or to seek the Fellow’s opinion on the marks given by tutors. Ideally, the focus is on an early draft of their writing or just a section of that draft, or notes on a title, and, during the course of the consultation, the student seek the Fellow’s advice on particular aspects of style or technique (not content, as Fellows are neither subject specialists nor substitute tutors). Pieces of written work may be submitted to the Fellow a few days ahead of a booked session. In the experience of RLF Fellows and partner institutions, students at all levels of study, undergraduate and postgraduate, and even staff, see benefit from learning about good writing practice from a professional author.

Hilary Spurling, founder of the Fellowship scheme, wrote at its inception:

The Fellowship scheme will cover all parts of Britain, paying particular attention to the local and regional needs of both writers and institutions. Its aim is to break down divisions, build up contacts and stimulate the living language, to relieve cultural poverty and linguistic distress as well as lightening the financial and material pressures weighing so heavily at present on the whole company of authors.

Hilary Spurling CBE
Extract from The Author, March 1999

Writing Matters

The RLF commissioned a team of experienced Fellows to review their experiences in universities and consider ways in which to help students adjust to the demands of writing at university. Their conclusions were brought together in the Writing Matters report, in which the chapters:

  • provide an overview of the current situation.
  • examine the widespread benefits of good writing.
  • investigate why students need help with writing.
  • advance detailed proposals for writing development in universities.
  • present effective action for the first year of higher education.
  • outline employers’ concerns and the role businesses can play.
  • argue for a greater focus on writing skills throughout the education system.
Writing Matters report

Key Recommendations

All universities should:

  • formulate and implement a Writing Development Policy as part of their Learning and Teaching Strategy.
  • offer a range of Writing Development provision to advance student writing skills at all levels.
  • supply clear guidance for students on all aspects of academic writing and conventions within disciplines.
  • provide explicit feedback on written assignments;
  • correct and effective writing should be an integral part of assessment.
  • pursue a developmental approach:
  • some students may need remedial help; all students can improve their writing skills.
  • give credits for successful completion of Writing Development Courses.
  • introduce a diagnostic writing exercise on entry to HE to identify for each student which areas of their writing need attention.
  • establish Writing Development Centres to provide institution-wide training, expertise and resources.

Further information for writers interested in applying to the scheme can be found at: