Examinations for Ladies Literate in Arts

It is that time of year again when our students are hard at work studying for their end of module exams. In continuation of previous blogs about examinations at St Andrews, this term we take a look at the examinations for the L.A. (Literate in Arts) and L.L.A. (Ladies Literate in Arts) qualification.

Proposed course of Lectures for Ladies in St Andrews, undated [circa 1860s-1870s]. (UYUY3778)

The history of women’s education at St Andrews begins with the matriculation of Elizabeth Garrett in November 1862, though her entrance to the University was blocked by Senatus on grounds of legality. A few years later, St Andrews proposed a similar scheme to that offered by the Edinburgh Ladies Education Association (founded in 1868) – a ‘course of lectures for ladies.’ These courses however were limited to those residing in St Andrews and were not followed by any form of examination.

Recommendation from Dr Roberts to Senatus that a Higher Certificate be offered to women, December 1876 (UYUY452)

It was Professor Roberts who first suggested to Senatus in December 1876 that a higher certificate be offered to women. Roberts and the Sub-Committee on the ‘Higher Certificate for Women’ had prepared a rough programme for the scheme which would offer certificates in subjects offered by the University at both pass and honours standard.

Results of the first L.A. exams, 1877 (UYUY3778)

The L.A. (Literate in Arts) scheme began in 1877 with a total of 8 candidates sitting the first examinations. Women could receive the title of L.A. after passing the requisite examinations and paying the required fee. The initial intention of the scheme was that the certificate would ‘be of great use to women who propose to become teachers’. This vision was recognised in 1879 when the Teachers Training Syndicate of the University of Cambridge recognised the L.A. examination as the equivalent of graduating ‘so far as its Examinations were concerned’ and the London Department of Education in 1884 considered passes in three honours subjects sufficient for the eligibility of becoming a Headmistress.

University of St Andrews Higher Certificate for Women, announced in the Fife Herald, 28 December 1876

The scheme was not limited to the St Andrews area but was advertised and promoted around the country. The first examination centres were located in London, Halifax, St Andrews and Dundee. Philosophy Professor, William Angus Knight, who became the convenor of the L.A. committee in 1878, promoted the qualification through a lecture tour around Britain in 1887, resulting in a spike in the number of candidates entering the exams. The L.A. by this point had become the L.L.A. (Ladies Literate in Arts) to distinguish it from the L.A. award offered to men by Edinburgh University.

Rules for the L.L.A. examiners, undated. (UYUY3778)

The 1883 provision that a suitable candidate (such as local headmaster or minister) could act as exam supervisor rather than the usual University-appointed examiner, led to the establishment of exam centres outside of the United Kingdom. Centres were set up in countries around the world, including South Africa, India, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Watercolour of the Pensionnat Waeles, Godesburg by L.L.A. candidate Agnes Robb Anderson, May 1895 (UYUY3778)

An example from the L.L.A. archive of one of the exam centres is this watercolour of the Pensionnat Waeles in Godesburg by L.L.A. candidate Agnes Robb Anderson in May 1895. Agnes studied for and sat her Botany exam in Godesburg.

From the start, the intention of the L.L.A scheme was to make the qualification as close to the MA degree offered to men as possible.

Example of the Senior Certificate in Local Examinations awarded to Emily Henderson in 1883 (UYUY3778)

Like male students entering the University of St Andrews, from 1881 L.L.A candidates had to have taken the Local Examinations Certificate (equivalent to school certificates and administered by Universities) to be eligible for sitting the diploma. In 1877 only four subjects (at least one of which had to be a language) were necessary for the L.A. This was raised to five in 1883 and seven in 1887, the number necessary for the MA degree. In fact, a prize was offered to the first woman to pass the seven MA subjects, won by Jessie Scott Ferguson in 1886.

Groupings of the 24 L.L.A. subjects as of 24 March 1886 (UYUY3778)

As part of the efforts to align the L.L.A. with the MA degree, in 1886 24 subjects were offered in five subject groups. Additionally, from 1887 candidates were graded, A for a pass above 80%, B for a pass between 60% and 80% and C for a pass between 50% and 60%.

Example of the L.L.A. examination certificate, awarded to Emily Henderson for passing Physiology in 1884. (UYUY3778)

It was important for Professor Knight that the L.L.A. examinations be of the same standard as the MA degree. The first examination papers for the L.A. published in the University Calendars are from 1878 and include the subjects English, Latin, French Language and Literature, German, Italian, Comparative Philology, History, Education, Logic and Metaphysics, Moral Philosophy, Political Economy, Mathematics, Physiology and Botany. In the course of the L.L.A. many additional subjects such as Chemistry, Zoology, Palaeontology, Hebrew, Biblical Criticism, Astronomy, Fine Art, Geography, Mineralogy, Music and Spanish were offered as part of the scheme.

L.A. Exam papers from 1878 (click on an image for a slideshow):

For comparison between the L.L.A. and the Master of Arts degree, here are the exam papers for 1881-1882.

L.L.A. Honours papers for 1881 (click on an image for a slideshow):

MA degree exam papers published in the University Calendar for 1881-1882 (click on an image for a slideshow):

In a memorial to the Scottish Universities’ Commission, the growth of the L.L.A. was used to demonstrate the demand for an academic title for women. Draft Ordinances were prepared arguing for the L.L.A. to be regarded as a University degree equivalent to the MA. The Commissioners ignored this request in their regulations. So, empowered by the Universities’ (Scotland) Act of 1889, the St Andrews Court decided to admit women to ordinary classes in St Andrews from 1892. The L.L.A. would continue for 39 years after this but once women were admitted to ordinary classes in St Andrews alongside male students, most L.L.A. candidates were from outside of Scotland after this date.

Over the course of the L.L.A.’s history (1877-1931), there were 36017 candidates, passing examinations in 27682 subjects. A total of 5117 women completed the qualification and received the L.L.A. diploma.

Sarah Rodriguez
Principal Archives Assistant

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