Kingston Uni's creative writing course is at the centre of controversy following the revelation that leading novelist Hanif Kureishi, a research fellow on the course, awards all his students distinctions regardless of the work they produce.

Kureishi, most famous for his social and sexual coming-of-age novel The Buddha of Suburbia, told an audience at last week's Hay literature festival that creative writing courses set up false expectations about literary careers.

He said: "The fantasy is that all the students will become successful writers - and no one will disabuse them of that.

"When you use the word creative and the word course there is something deceptive about it."

Speaking of his marking policy, Kureishi said: "I always give people the same mark - 71 per cent."

He later asked his audience the rhetorical question: "How can you mark creative writing?"

The screenwriter and playwright also launched into a peculiar tirade about the writing courses, particularly creative ones, being "the new mental hospitals".

He said: "One of the things you notice is that when you switch on the television and a student has gone mad with a machine gun on a campus in America, it's always a writing student.

"The writing courses, particularly when they have the word creative in them, are the new mental hospitals. But the people are nice."

Kureishi is employed as a part-time research fellow, holding occasional masterclass lectures and about five formal meeting with MA students between May and September to help supervise their coursework.

Dr David Rogers, head of the school of humanities, said: "Hanif Kureishi was employed for his thought-provoking, inspirational contribution which he provides through masterclasses and MA supervision.

"Mr Kureishi marked four pieces of work last year, all of which were also marked by experienced academic staff at the university, and audited by external examiners.

"The final marks indicated a range of student achievement."

He added that creative writing was an extremely demanding and valuable course which gave students skills in professional writing, editing, independent research and critical analysis.

He added: "These skills are useful for students aiming for careers in, for example, writing, publishing, marketing, advertising, journalism or teaching.

"Graduates from the course have already gone on to win poetry competitions and to publish novels and travel writing."