#Take5 #25 The best way to support writing?

The what, why and how of the RLF Consultant Fellowship Scheme

By Cath Senker, RLF Consultant Fellow

Place ‘professional writers in higher education institutions to offer writing support to all students.’[1] This is the inspired idea behind the Royal Literary Fund Fellowship scheme, which has been sending authors into universities since 1999 to offer one-to-one tutorials to students. And it’s proved extraordinarily successful. Why? Writers face several of the same challenges as students: how to develop an idea into a piece of writing; how to plan and structure it; and how to edit a rough draft, smoothing out the bumps in the flow and improving the expression of ideas to create a polished piece. With an in-depth knowledge and understanding of different writing genres, the RLF Fellows can apply their knowledge to academic writing.

Enter the Consultant Fellows

The Fellowship scheme has now been extended from individual tutorials to workshops. Since 2013, the Consultant Fellows’ (CF) programme has trained experienced RLF Fellows to facilitate writing-development sessions with groups of undergraduates, postgraduates and staff in universities. As CFs, we tailor our provision to fit with the university and liaise closely and cooperatively with in-house learning developers, writing developers and academic staff. Thirty-two CFs currently work with about forty universities, extending provision in a cost-effective way. We can provide anything from a one-off workshop to a series of essay-writing sessions for students. Some of us run one- or two-day workshops for postgraduates and staff aimed at increasing the quality and quantity of publications. A few facilitate on-campus immersives or off-campus retreats extending over two days or more and providing a blend of in-depth group work and one-to-one guidance. Coming from outside the university, we hope to bring a fresh perspective ­– we appreciate the challenges of writing but exude a love of the craft.

Writing Workshops at Sussex

I’ve been running workshops at the University of Sussex since 2013, when I started running workshops for First Generation Scholars. Now, my CF colleague Jen Green and I lead sessions on all aspects of the writing process for undergraduates and postgraduates. I have recently begun to co-facilitate workshops with course convenors to deliver subject-specific sessions and help to embed writing development in the curriculum.

Cath Senker Uni of Sussex workshop_small

CF, blogs and Learning Developers

Another of my roles is to commission and edit the weekly RLF CF blogs (https://rlfconsultants.com/). Top Tips delivers handy advice for students and other writers, gathered from the experiences of Consultant Fellows working as authors and facilitators. In CFs Share Insights, Fellows reveal how their work as writers energises and informs their writing workshops and other training activities with university staff and students.

We hope that learning developers will share our Top Tips and comment on our CFs Share Insights posts – we would love to hear what you think and have a conversation about developments in teaching and learning.


Cath Senker is a freelance author who has written around 160 children’s non-fiction books and two titles for adults. A former RLF Writing Fellow at the universities of Sussex, Chichester and Southampton, she currently runs writing-development workshops at the University of Sussex.

[1] https://www.rlf.org.uk/education/rlf-fellowshipscheme/

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