Postgraduate: Writing courses; distance-learning schemes; MSc in herbal medicine

Literary stars including Nick Hornby and Doris Lessing are lending their support to new writing courses at City University. A Masters in novel-writing and one in playwriting and scriptwriting will be launched in October this year, and the writers have been advising City on the content and structure of the courses. Both programmes will be about how to become a working writer. Upon graduating, students will have completed a novel ready for publication or a play or film script ripe for production. The novel-writing programme will ask students to experiment with literary styles. They will analyse authors' works in publishable reviews and literary essays, rather than academic essays, and be encouraged to experiment when they write their own books. "Literary novels, crime novels, science fiction, comic novels... all are respected," says course director Harriett Gilbert, a journalist and novelist whose books include The Riding Mistress - a story of obsessive love; and several psychological thrillers. The scriptwriting students will get to hear actors perform their draft work and experience the redrafting process before sitting down to write their full-length piece. "We will provide a supportive and challenging environment where students can become confident in their work before subjecting themselves to the pressures of the market," says course director Barbara Norden. Joining Hornby and Lessing on the novels advisory board are Bernadine Evaristo, Maggie Gee, Michelle Magorian, Sara Maitland, Hilary Mantel and Patrick Neate. The scriptwriting board comprises Julian Fellowes, Stephen Poliakoff, Meera Syal and Kwame Kwei-Armah. Leading writers will also be dropping in to give talks to the students.

* Mozambique's new prime minister is an alumnus of the University of London. Luisa Diogo, who at 46 is seen as the first of a new generation of Mozambican leaders, graduated from the university in 1992 with an MSc in financial economics. Ms Diogo took her degree via the university's External Programme, a distance-learning scheme which was launched in 1858 and is the longest running of its kind. The External Programme offers 90 degrees, including postgraduate courses. See www.londonexternal.ac.uk for more details.

* A Chinese herbal medicine course has gained MSc status. The programme, run by the Northern College of Acupuncture in York, is the first in the UK to be given this distinction, according to the college principal, Richard Blackwell. The college has run an MSc in acupuncture since 1995. Both courses are validated by the University of Wales. Students on the new course - which is aimed at qualified acupuncturists - will use herbs to treat a range of conditions including sinusitis, ME, infertility, glue ear, incontinence, eczema and acne. Practitioners of orthodox medicine, including doctors and nurses, are among the student body of the college. For more details visit www.chinese-medicine.co.uk.

g.mccann@independent.co.uk

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