Alumni Services


Thesis digitisation project

University's entire collection of PhDs to be made available online.

The University library is undertaking a three year digitisation project which will make its entire collection of PhDs available online through the Edinburgh Research Archive. The project, which will be the largest digitisation programme ever undertaken by the University, will provide universal access to original Edinburgh research, thereby improving the reach and impact of its unique collections.

Accessible research

The Library holds approximately 25,000 PhD titles dating from the late seventeenth century to the present day. Approximately 10,000 of these already exist in an electronic format; this project will digitise the remaining 15,000. Of the remaining 15,000, approximately 10,000 exist in duplicate and can therefore be scanned ‘destructively’, by removing their binding and feeding the pages through a document scanner. The 5,000 remaining non-duplicate theses will be scanned ‘non-destructively’ using a book scanner.

Whilst the majority of the digitisation will be undertaken internally at the University Collections Facility (Library Annexe) some items will be outsourced; this hybrid models allows us to benefit from an external company’s expertise while retaining control over processes, procedures and workflows. As well as digitisation, older items in poor condition will receive conservation treatment and basic catalogue records will be made for any item not already on the system. Currently some historic thesis records do not have an electronic format and it is only possible to discover them via consulting a card catalogue held in the Library.

By the end of the project, every single University of Edinburgh PhD thesis will exist both in digital and physical format and will be discoverable through a comprehensive online catalogue record. Furthermore, all physical items will be consolidated and managed in a secure and stable environment.

Are you an author of a PhD thesis?

Due to the sheer size of the collection, and because we do not have up-to-date contact details for the majority of authors, we will not be contacting authors individually to inform them that their thesis will be digitised and made available online. The cost to do this is prohibitive and would cause the project to be significantly reduced, therefore preventing us from digitising the entire collection.

If you are an author of a PhD thesis from the University of Edinburgh, we would like to hear your thoughts about the online availability of your work. If you wish your thesis to not be publicly available, contact the Library’s Scholarly Communications Team at and they would be happy to discuss with you the most appropriate action to take.

Related links

Edinburgh Research Archive

Scholarly Communications team