A-Z Challenge: I – Institutes at the School of Advanced Study

The School of Advanced Study at the University of London was founded in 1994 to unite world-renowned institutes and become the National Centre for Humanities Research in the United Kingdom.

As a graduate school, we rarely appear in university rankings, because there are no undergraduate (Bachelor’s) degrees offered here – undergrad degrees are a criterion for most of the ranking lists. It is, however, the only institution in the UK that is nationally funded to promote and facilitate research in the humanities. 

When you join this school, you might get overwhelmed by the sheer number of abbreviations and acronyms used within these halls on a daily basis. Most of them refer to the institutes, while the school itself is simply known as SAS.

At the time of writing in April 2021, there are eight institutes, formerly nine, that comprise the School of Advanced Study. These are: the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, the Institute of Modern Languages Research, the Institute of English Studies, the Institute of Classical Studies, the Institute of Historical Research, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, the Institute of Philosophy, and the Warburg Institute. The former Institute of Latin American Studies was integrated into the IMLR in April 2021 as the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

Regarding the above order, we’ve got IALS, IMLR, IES, ICS, IHR, ICwS, IP, and the Warburg which doesn’t have a snazzy abbreviation. The former ILAS was incorporated into IMLR to form CLACS. Easy, right? Yes, we are aware that some of them sound like we might have the hiccups. But these letters stand for well-established places of study which enjoy excellent reputations both in the UK and abroad.

The Institute of Historical Research is the oldest institute of the school, founded in 1921. It predates its current home in Senate House as this was built between 1932 and 1937. The Institute currently offers an MA in Garden and Landscape History, an MRes in Historical Research as well as MPhil/PhD programmes in subject areas such as Medieval Economic and Social History, and Modern British History among many others. IHR is also home of the Wohl Library and the Victoria County History Research Centre as well as the Centre for Metropolitan History.

Warburg Institute on Woburn Square, London

Founded in 1900 in Hamburg, Germany as a library and in 1926 as an institute, the Warburg Institute has been part of the University of London since 1944, after it was moved to London in 1933.

When the School of Advanced Study was founded in 1994, the Warburg was one of the founding member institutes. Today, the Warburg Institute is the leading centre for the study of cultural history and the role of images in society. It is known for its interdisciplinary research and often engaging in superstitious or emotional elements of cultural phenomena. Students at the Warburg can study for Postgraduate Certificates and MRes degrees in Art History & Renaissance Culture and Cultural, Intellectual & Visual History, as well as MA degrees in Cultural, Intellectual & Visual History and Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture. MPhil and PhD students past and present have focused on such diverse research areas as Art History, Iconography, Cultural History, Translation Studies, History of Magic & Science, Renaissance Architecture, and the History of the Book. The Warburg Institute is located on Woburn Square and houses the Warburg Library, Archive and Photographic Collection.

The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies is one of the more popular institutes at SAS, and housed in Charles Clore House on Russell Square.

Charles Clore House on Russell Square, London

It is one of only two member institutes not located within the main campus at Senate House. The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies was founded in 1947 and has become an internationally-renowned legal research facility. Research Centres at IALS include the Centre for Financial Law, Regulation & Compliance (FinReg), the Information Law and Policy Centre, the Sir William Dale Centre for Legislative Studies, the Sir William Dale Legislative Drafting Clinic, as well as the Woolf Chair of Legal Education. Students at IALS can study for the LLM in Drafting Legislation, Regulation and Policy, as well as the MPhil/PhD in such areas as Company Law, European Criminal Law, Financial Crime or Legal Education.

Since 1949, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies has been part of the University of London. As of 2021, the future of the institute is unknown. It came under threat of closure in October 2020 and is currently waiting for a report from a committee, expected in June 2021. ICwS is the only postgraduate academic institution in the United Kingdom devoted to the study of the Commonwealth in the humanities and social sciences. It is also home to the Human Rights Consortium and the Refugee Law Initiative, so it comes as no surprise that the Institute of Commonwealth Studies offers an MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies, an MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights, as well as an MA, PGDip or PGCert in Human Rights. MPhil/PhD subjects can range from Refugee Law to Anti-Terrorism Measures, Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, Transnational Social Mobilisation, and Genocide or Ecocide Studies. The ICwS Library is located within Senate House Library and houses 230 archival collections, and materials that are only available right here.

Set up in 1953 as a partnership with the Hellenic and Roman Societies, the Institute of Classical Studies is the national research centre of the arts, languages and literatures of Ancient Greece and Rome. Research areas range from prehistory to Late Antiquity, and subjects also include archaeology, history and philosophy. The Institute of Classical Studies is very involved in the wider University of London network, offering modules such as Ecology and Economy in the Roman Empire, and Digital Classics for the Intercollegiate MA in Classics at King’s College London, Royal Holloway, and University College London. Students at ICS can also study for the MPhil/PhD in Classics with a focus on Digital Classics.

The Institute of Latin American Studies was founded in 1965. This month it was integrated into the Institute of Modern Languages Research as the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies – CLACS. From 2004 to 2013 ILAS also formed part of the former Institute for the Study of the Americas. As a research institute, ILAS has always had strong ties with the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and the IMLR due to the often interdisciplinary research into colonial and postcolonial Latin America and the Caribbean, anthropology, ethnography, and culture. Research projects at this centre include the Leverhulme Trust-funded LAGLOBAL network, Legal Cultures of the Subsoil, Commodities of Empire, Resource Conflicts, Global Decolonization Workshop, and the Centre for Integrated Caribbean Research. CLACS’s mission is to foster scholarly initiatives and develop networks of Latin Americanists and Caribbeanists at a national level. CLACS currently offers a PhD in Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

In 1999, the former Centre for English Studies received institute status and was established as the Institute of English Studies on New Year’s Day 1999. IES is an internationally renowned research centre specialising in the history of the book, manuscript and print studies, textual scholarship, digital editing and new critical approaches to literary history. The institute hosts research projects and archives including BARSEA, the Blackburn Museum Academic Partnership, IES Digital, The Ministry of Information, The Museum of Writing, The William Sharp “Fiona Macleod” Archive, and Yellow Text Blocks. IES runs several short courses and summer schools each year, including the Nineteenth Century Summer School, the London International Palaeography Summer School, the T.S. Eliot Summer School, and the London Rare Books School. Postgrad students can study for an MA or MRes in History of the Book, as well as an MPhil/PhD on such diverse subjects as Reading Notes and Marginalia, the History of Print Illustration, the Literature of the Irish Revival, and American Modernism.

In 1950, the University of London established an Institute of Germanic Studies at Senate House. In 2004, a merger transformed it into the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, before it became known as the Institute of Modern Languages Research in 2013 after branching out into other languages, primarily French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. IMLR is home to several research centres, including the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Women’s Writing, the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory, the Ingeborg Bachmann Centre for Austrian Literature & Culture, the Research Centre for German & Austrian Exile Studies, the Centre for Quebec and French-Canadian Studies, the Ernst Bloch Centre for German Thought, as well as the newly established CLACS (see Institute of Latin American Studies). Students at IMLR can currently study towards an MPhil/PhD with focus on such research areas as Translation Studies, Latin American Literature, Comparative Studies, as well as subjects related to all the supported languages. IMLR is based at Senate House, and the institute’s Germanic Studies Library, Germanic Archives and Romance Collections are housed within Senate House Library.

Officially the youngest member institute of the School of Advanced Study, the Institute of Philosophy was founded in 2005. The institute’s main focus is on the facilitation and promotion of philosophy research via its member research centres. These are the Centre for the Study of Senses (CenSes), the Centre for Logic and Language (CeLL), the Centre for Research in Experimental Aesthetics, Technology and Engineering (CREATE), and the Centre for Olfactory Research and Applications (CORA). While the institute currently does not offer any programmes of postgraduate study, it does offer a wide range of public and academic events such as conferences, workshops, and exhibitions through its centres and in collaboration with other internationally-renowned research institutions and societies.

Most of the institutes here at SAS offer at least a few of their degrees for study by distance learning, making them extremely accessible, especially during this pandemic. While the School of Advanced Study may be one of the University of London’s smallest member institutions, this is actually a real advantage for us students. Within our institutes, everyone basically knows everyone, students and faculty, all the way up to the institute directors – there’s definitely no “hiding in the back row.” But this also means that we don’t have to compete for our supervisors’ attention with hundreds of other students, and because everyone within our specific institute has at least a basic idea of what everyone is working on, there is a lot of assistance given freely between students, and through faculty between all the institutes at the School of Advanced Study as well.

Check out the institute websites and the SAS Events page, for lots of (mostly) free events and seminars, which are open to the public, and join the discussion!

Written by Conny Kaufmann, IMLR PhD Candidate


Check out the other A-Z Challenge participants as well!


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