Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Course

The Warburg Institute fosters an interdisciplinary approach spanning cultural, intellectual and visual history. Join us to conduct your PhD research in a world-renowned library and immerse yourself in a uniquely international research community.


The Warburg Institute is one of the world’s leading centres for studying the interaction of ideas, images and society. It is dedicated to the survival and transmission of culture across time and space, with special emphasis on the afterlife of antiquity.

The resources of the Institute are especially geared to students interested in interdisciplinary study, including the Archive, Photographic Collection, and open-stack Library with its unique cataloguing system specifically designed by Aby Warburg to aid research.

students at the warburgWe encourage PhD and MPhil applications in the many areas of research the Institute supports including:

  • Art History and Iconography
  • Cultural History
  • Translation studies
  • Intellectual History
  • Art History
  • Renaissance Culture
  • History of Magic and Science
  • History of Cartography and Cosmography
  • Religious History
  • History of the Book

Full-time (three years) and part-time (six years) options available.

Investing in your future

Many Warburg alumni have continued their academic careers at Universities across the globe including the Universities of Cambridge, Copenhagen, Notre Dame (US), Padua, UCL, Birkbeck, La Sapienza (Rome), Warwick, York and Yeshiva (New York).

Our graduates have also gone into positions at cultural institutions such as the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the Bayerische Akademie, the National Library, Argentina, Sothebys, Arts Council England, the National Gallery, the V&A, and the Southbank Centre. 

Discover what some Warburg alumna have gone on to do in our Life after the Warburg blog series. 

The reading room at The Warburg Institute library
The Reading Room of The Warburg Institute Library


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 weekly seminar on Work in Progress and to present a paper every year from their second year onwards. In their first year they are able to opt-in to attend weekly a class on Techniques of Scholarship; they may register for language classes (at a discounted fee rate) 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 can be found here. Current dissertation topics include: From Astrology to Aliens: A Shift in Early Modern Cosmology, The Collection of Sir Richard Ellys (1682-1742) in the Context of Eighteenth-Century Book Collecting, The Workshop and its Painters: Perugino and the Perugineschi in Florence and Perugia.

Distance-Learning PhD

The Warburg Institute supervises research at a distance on topics for which the primary material is held in an archive outside the UK and the student resides in proximity to a research library with excellent resources for the topic to be studied. Decisions on the fulfilment of both requirements are made by the proposed supervisor on a case-by-case basis.*

In addition, students must meet with their supervisors in person, in London, at least once a year; this may coincide with other requirements to be at the Institute:

  • Students must attend in person the meetings for their Progression, Upgrade and Viva.
  •  Students must participate in person in the Year 2 Symposium**
  • Students must deliver a Work in Progress paper in person in the third year of their degree studies***
  • Students must have access to a stable means for meeting over the internet and should be prepared to exchange work approximately once a month. Students must instigate a Supervisory Meeting record to be sent to the supervisor after each supervision. This is required of all students.
  • Students should try to attend in person the Institute tours in Foundation week to meet the staff and get a sense of the resources to which they have access at the Warburg.

The Warburg will make every effort to make possible remote attendance at Work in Progress Seminars, Tea Time Talks, and Institute evening events.

* Both of these conditions are required because the Warburg is not in a position to make available the study materials needed for any particular topic that are not digitised in the normal course of events.

** The PhD Year 2 Symposium is an afternoon of 15-minute papers given by each PhD student of that year. Student papers of similar topics are sometimes paired; all papers are open to questions from the audience. The Symposium is open to the public, as are most the Institute’s scholarly events.

*** The Warburg Work-in-Progress seminar presents papers from staff, Fellows, visiting scholars and advanced (Year 3) PhD students. It is commonly run on Wednesday afternoons; the seminar is open to the public, as are most the Institute’s scholarly events.

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’.

Michael Gordian, PhD student from 2010-2013



Full-time: £6,376

Part-time: £3,826 per year


Full-time: £15,656

Part-time: £9,394 per year

PhD Writing Up Fee


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. Information on entry requirements and a list of acceptable qualifications is given here Upgrading to PhD is considered in the second year for full-time students and in the third or fourth year for part-time students.

Warburg Institute Contact Details

Enquiries and Application Procedures

Enquiries should be made to Institute Manager at

Application is made directly online via the University website. 

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 to discuss your proposal. A list of academic staff and their interests can be found here.

Candidates are advised to submit their applications by the beginning of May. 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. The application deadline for September entry is 31 July. The application deadline for January entry (PhD students only) is 31 October.

Research Proposal: Candidates applying for research towards the PhD degree must 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).

Candidates will normally receive an initial response to their application within 28 working 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.