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Last Updated:  Friday, 7 March, 2003, 13:07 GMT
Aspiring authors 'must read classics'
Andrew Motion
Motion blamed an "educational rat wheel" for preventing wider reading
The UK's writers of tomorrow have not mastered the classic texts, says Poet Laureate Andrew Motion.

Students at the country's top creative writing course lack a rounded education in literature, said Motion, who led the course for eight years.

The poet was speaking to The Times newspaper as he announced his departure from the helm of the acclaimed University of East Anglia (UEA) masters' course.

Motion blames the education system for placing too much emphasis on exams and not allowing broader reading.

There is incredibly little time allowed in schools for reading
Andrew Motion
Poet Laureate
He said some UEA students had not read Charles Dickens, Jane Austen or Evelyn Waugh.

Motion told The Times: "It's very noticeable. Almost every other academic colleague I've spoken to says the same.

"We turn out students from schools and into universities who have not been educated in a rounded way."

He said the structure of teaching led students to too few set texts.

"There is incredibly little time allowed for reading.

"It's the fault of the structure of the curriculum.

"They bone up on their texts, thinking they will only get questions on those."

Past masters

Motion said their lack of knowledge of key works meant he had to guide them by making suggestions.

He said schools were an "educational rat wheel, which doesn't give them much time to read".

Graduates from the UEA creative writing masters course include Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro and Rose Tremain.

Motion replaced Sir Malcolm Bradbury as director in 1995 and leaves to take up the chair of the creative writing course at Royal Holloway college in Surrey, which is part of the University of London.

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