Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Course

Full-time study for the PhD degree entails three or a maximum of four years' independent research, culminating in the writing of a thesis of not more than 100,000 words. Part-time students complete the same programme in five, or a maximum of six years. After submission of the thesis, the student attends an oral examination conducted by an internal examiner, from the University of London, and an external examiner, normally from another British university.

There is no formal coursework, but PhD students are expected to participate in the Director’s weekly seminar on Work in Progress and to present a paper every year from their second year onwards. In their first year they are required to attend a fortnightly class on Techniques of Scholarship; they may take language classes and other research training courses as necessary. They are encouraged to participate in the regular seminars held at the Institute during the academic year.

The Institute will accept suitably qualified students provided that their topic can be supervised by a member of the academic staff. Broadly speaking the area covered is cultural and intellectual history in the period 1200–1700; specific research interests of members of staff are indicated in the section below on Information for Applicants. Current dissertation topics include: Tastes and attitudes to the art of the past in Italy between 1550 and 1800, the persistence of Catholicism in Denmark after the Protestant Reformation 1535-1629, the notion of imagination in Ficino’s Commentary on Plotinus.

Entry Requirements

The normal minimum entry requirement is a good second-class honours degree from a British university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard; but applicants should note that the MA course described on this site is a particularly suitable preparation for doctoral research in the areas covered by the Institute. In accordance with regulations all students will be registered for the MPhil degree in the first instance. All students whose first language is not English must provide recent evidence that their written and spoken English is adequate for postgraduate study. A list of acceptable qualifications is given here and in the side bar under the heading of English Language Competency. Upgrading to PhD is considered in the second year for full-time students and in the third or fourth year for part-time students.


The Warburg Institute
School of Advanced Study, University of London
Woburn Square
London WC1H 0AB
email: warburg(at)
telephone (44) 020 7862 8949
fax (44) 020 7862 8955

Enquiries and Application Procedures

Enquiries should be made to the Associate Director (Administration), via the contact information given above.

Application is made directly online via the University website here 

Before submitting an application you are advised to contact a member of the Warburg academic staff who has interests in your proposed field of study. A list of academic staff and their interests can be found at on this website. You should email a member of staff outlining your PhD proposal, so that they can advise you on whether your topic can be supervised at the Warburg Institute.

There is no official closing date but candidates are advised to submit their applications by the beginning of March. This refers particularly to UK and EC students, and especially those who wish to apply for grants. Applications received after the end of June may encounter delays.

Research Proposal: Candidates applying for research towards the PhD degree should submit with their application form a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words. Provided that the applicant appears to have the necessary qualifications and that the topic can be supervised by members of academic staff, the candidate will be asked to submit a piece of written work and, if they are in the UK, may be invited for an informal discussion with the potential supervisor(s). If the Institute wishes to take the application further following these initial procedures, candidates in the UK will be invited for interview by members of academic staff; those outside the UK will be offered a Skype or telephone interview. Depending on the nature of the primary sources relevant to the area of research, candidates may be asked to undertake a translation test (with dictionaries).

English Language Competency: All applicants will be required to demonstrate that their competence in English is sufficient to enable them to write a thesis of 100,000 words.

Candidates will normally receive an initial response to their application within ten days. Those who have been formally interviewed will normally be informed within one week as to whether they are to be offered a place.

Note: in accordance with regulations research students will be registered for the MPhil degree in the first instance. Upgrading to PhD will be considered in the second year for full-time students and in the third or fourth year for part-time students.


"Since joining the Warburg I’ve felt like an Indiana Jones, a scholar with the world at his fingertips; supported by a fellowship of colleagues from different stages of life, and consumed with a passion for discovering uncharted continents of knowledge. I spend most of my time on the third and fourth floors (which have volumes on abstruse philosophical and theological topics) so I often have the pleasure of imagining myself as some kind of alchemist researching for a philosopher’s stone. The other wonderful thing about the Warburg is that it is smack dab in the middle of Bloomsbury, the intellectual centre of London. Not only am I am surrounded by centuries-old museums and libraries full of ancient tomes and artifacts, but I’m also a part of wider network of students and staff from all over the globe". 

Andrew Manns, Current PhD student

"What I like and appreciate about the Warburg is its unique library and its history, the academic tradition of the institute and its unique scholarly atmosphere. It is great that students get to talk with members of staff and engage in the academic activities of the institute. Any student can always knock on anybody's door to ask something and always get a friendly and helpful response. From an intellectual point of view, it is amazing to be able to work in a truly interdisciplinary way and work on obscure subjects which are less studied in other places. It was also very good to be obliged to learn various languages, including Latin, and to learn to work with primary sources which students can take from the shelves. A unique research experience. Another good thing about the Warburg: the close proximity to the British Library and important universities and research centres".  

Michael Gordian, PhD student from 2010-2013