What are the most popular colleges for famous writers?

Trace the academic paths of some of the world's most beloved authors. Discover which universities and colleges played a role in shaping their literary journeys.

4 Min Read

Every great writer starts somewhere. Behind the pages of our favorite books often lie tales of academic pursuits, workshops, and lectures that helped shape these literary giants. Let’s explore some of the prestigious colleges that have been the alma maters of famous writers.

1. University of Oxford – The Timeless Classic

With its ancient halls and esteemed faculty, Oxford has been the breeding ground for writers who have left an indelible mark on literature.

Notable Writers:

  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of “The Lord of the Rings”
  • Graham Greene: Known for “The End of the Affair” and “Brighton Rock”

Overview: Founded in the 12th century, Oxford’s history is as rich as its academic programs. From the Bodleian Library to its world-class English program, it’s a haven for literature enthusiasts.

2. University of East Anglia – Modern Literary Pioneers

This university is renowned for its Creative Writing MA, which has produced numerous acclaimed authors.

Notable Writers:

  • Ian McEwan: “Atonement” and “Amsterdam”
  • Kazuo Ishiguro: “Never Let Me Go” and “The Remains of the Day”

Overview: Established in 1963, the University of East Anglia’s relatively recent history hasn’t stopped it from making a significant mark on the literary world.

3. Harvard University – The Ivy League Muse

Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard’s rigorous academic environment has cultivated the minds of many famous writers.

Notable Writers:

  • T.S. Eliot: Renowned poet and playwright
  • John Updike: Known for “The Rabbit” series

Overview: As one of the oldest universities in the U.S., Harvard’s contribution to literature is unparalleled, thanks in part to its extensive library system and the Harvard Review, its literary journal.

4. Columbia University – New York’s Literary Gem

Situated in the heart of New York City, Columbia’s MFA program in writing is one of the most sought after in the world.

Notable Writers:

  • Jhumpa Lahiri: “The Interpreter of Maladies” and “The Namesake”
  • Paul Auster: “City of Glass” and “The New York Trilogy”

Overview: Columbia’s integration with New York’s literary scene provides its students with unmatched opportunities, from internships at publishing houses to readings at renowned bookstores.

5. University of Exeter – Britain’s Unsung Literary Hero

Although less globally recognized than some others, Exeter has played a crucial role in nurturing literary talents.

Notable Writers:

  • J.K. Rowling: The mastermind behind the “Harry Potter” series
  • Dame Hilary Mantel: “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies”

Overview: Beyond Rowling’s study of French and Classics here, Exeter’s rich programs in English and Creative Writing continue to shape promising writers.


The journey of a writer is often solitary, but it’s also molded by mentors, peers, and the academic institutions that provide them with both knowledge and inspiration. These colleges have not only nurtured literary talents but also fostered environments that allow creative spirits to flourish.

Whether you’re an aspiring writer or an avid reader, diving into the academic backgrounds of your favorite authors can offer a fresh perspective on their works and a deeper appreciation for their craft. After all, every writer is a sum of their experiences, and these institutions play a significant part in their tales.