University of London pleased with court's decision regarding the Warburg Institute

Thursday 6 November 2014

The University of London can announce that this morning Mrs Justice Proudman formally handed down her judgment on the Warburg case.

The University, the Attorney General and some of the Advisory Council of the Warburg Institute were involved in a legal dispute over matters relating to the 1944 Trust Deed and what it covers.

The Judge has found in favour of the University on almost every point that was of importance to us.

In summary, she has confirmed:

  • The University’s ownership of the building that houses the Warburg Institute.

  • That block grant funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) belongs to the University and not to the Warburg.

  • The University’s internal governance arrangements that apply to the Warburg Institute (which are the same as those applied to all the Institutes of the School of Advanced Study), are in line with the 1944 Trust Deed.

  • The University has the right to charge the Warburg for services provided to it.

  • That there is in general no unacceptable conflict of interest for the University in managing the Warburg, since this is what the founders of the Institute envisaged in the Trust Deed, although she has criticised the use of our estate-wide service charge.

The Judge also confirmed that the books which have been gifted to or purchased for the Warburg since 1944 are as much part of the Trust as the collection it first brought into the University. The University welcomes this conclusion, since, despite recent misleading headlines, the University has never had any intention of splitting the collection.

The judgment leaves an area of uncertainty around internal funding mechanisms. While the Judge makes clear that we can recover the actual cost of the running of the Warburg Institute, she also says that estate-wide service charge does not “chime with the Trust Deed”. We are considering the practical implications of this.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Adrian Smith, said, “I am delighted that we now have clarification on the main issues raised before the Court. The University has always maintained its desire to preserve the vision of Aby Warburg. Now, we must look forward, and get back to the task of supporting this unique institute and the academic community who value it so highly.

“The University is aware that over the course of the proceedings, there were individuals and interest groups claiming that we intended to split the collection. However, these claims were always wholly unfounded and we absolutely reject them. We are also aware of rumours that there were other interested parties wanting to move some or all of the collection to Hamburg or New York. Today’s ruling will ensure that we keep the collection in the University here in London.

“The University’s position throughout has been that this case should never have been brought to court. The financial and opportunity cost to us has been serious. We look forward to enabling the Warburg Institute to recover its role in humanities scholarship under new leadership. The University and the Advisory Council are in the process of making an appointment of the Warburg’s next Director.”


For further information, please contact:
Kyla Njoku
Communications Officer, University of London
0207 862 8014

Notes to Editors

  • The full name of the case is The University of London and (1) Professor John Prag (2) Her Majesty’s Attorney General. Mrs Justice Proudman sits in the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division.

  • About the University of London
    The University of London is a federal University and is one of the oldest, largest and most diverse universities in the UK. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University is recognised globally as a world leader in Higher Education. It consists of 18 self-governing Colleges of outstanding reputation, together with the School of Advanced Study, the world-wide International Programmes, a world-class academic library and a number of other activities.

Across the Federation there are approximately 175,000 students: around 120,000 in the London based Colleges and about 55,000 following the international programmes. The University is a charity in its own right and trustee of over 100 trust funds.

Learn more about the University of London at