Women students 1877–1911
The Examination for Women was established in 1875 by the University Local Examinations Delegacy, the body responsible for setting non-University examinations (eg those for schools) and was first taken by female students in 1877. The Examination was similar to, but distinct from, the examination leading to the degree of BA, and it consisted of a Preliminary Examination and a Further Examination (renamed the First Examination and Second Examination in 1880). The Further Examination could be a pass examination or a subject-specific honours one. The examinations were held in Oxford and at centres elsewhere until 1900, but neither the University nor the Delegacy were responsible for preparing women for them. In 1894 the Higher Local Examination (equivalent to the Final Pass School) was also established just for women, and though from 1902 men could take the examination, few did so.
Prior to 1920 instead of graduating, women received a certificate from the Local Examinations Delegacy for passing examinations. From 1895-96 to 1913, following a failed campaign to allow women to obtain University qualifications, the Association for the Education of Women (AEW) awarded its own diplomas and certificates.
From 1884 women were gradually allowed to sit for various University Honours Moderations and Final Honour Schools, and by 1894 they could take all University examinations for the degrees of BA, BMus and DMus although they could still not matriculate or graduate until 1920.
We hold the annual reports that the Local Examinations Delegacy maintained for the Examination of Women from 1877 to 1911, which include examiners' reports, class lists and details of those who gained certificates. We also hold the Pass and Honours register for the Examination for Women which the Local Examinations Delegacy maintained from 1888 to 1902. This also includes results for the University examinations women were now permitted to take, as well as the Higher Local Examination. They record the date of the examinations, the examination centre, the name of the candidate, the subjects they offered, the subjects passed, and the class of the passed subjects.
From around 1899 (although some entries date from a few years earlier), the Local Examinations Delegacy also began to keep progress registers solely for women students who were taking examinations in arts (ie for the BA) and in music. They contain the names of candidates, examinations passed, and BAs conferred from 1920 to c1925 for those who retrospectively matriculated and graduated after 1920.
The First Examination was abolished in 1899, and the Second Examination was phased out as women were admitted to more and more University Honour Schools. The last Higher Local Examination was taken in 1929.
How to access the records
Please contact us to find out more about women students who passed the Examination for Women 1877-1911, the Higher Local Examination 1894-1929, and University examinations 1884-1911, or for more information on these examinations and the Local Examinations Delegacy.
The records of the AEW are held by the Bodleian Library's Department of Special Collections. For more information, please email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be aware that they will not normally undertake genealogical research for remote enquirers.