Ladies Literate in Arts
The LLA was a distinctively St Andrews qualification. It stands for 'Ladies Literate in Arts'. The LLA was originally a 'distance learning' qualification for women, introduced in the 1870s to allow them access to University education in the days before they were admitted as students to the University itself. Students studied at colleges local to them, and then sat examinations set by the University, at centres all over the UK and in many places throughout the world. Many thousands of women participated in the LLA scheme, which was so popular that it survived for 50 years, into the 1930s - long after women were admitted as full students in 1892. For further information, see the article 'Literate Ladies: a Fifty-Year Experiment' by RN Smart in St Andrews University Alumnus Chronicle, 1968, vol. 59. LLA article (PDF, 969 KB).
The LA scheme (Literate in Arts), as it was called in its early years, was seen by those promoting it within the university as being the equivalent of the MA, but for women. In 1879 it was decided that evidence of having passed a suitable preliminary exam should be obligatory after 1881. Conformity with the MA was sought by means of setting the same standard papers, identical exam papers on the same day for subjects taught in the University, and increasing the number of subjects required for the Diploma to the same as that for the MA. In 1880, Edinburgh University proposed to award the title of LA to their male students who had attended classes for two years, so it was necessary to rethink the St Andrews title. To quote from Bob Smart's article, p 23:
'"The committee resolved to recommend the Senatus to alter the title of its higher certificate for women to lady literate in arts (L.L.A.) or Lit.A. or in some other manner ... The Senatus agreed that the title conferred upon ladies should be changed to L.L.A."
But confusion over the interpretation of these letters arose, and even Knight in his history of the scheme in 1896 says that the "L" was doubled "simply to differentiate the women's title from that given to men". In 1900 the Senatus "agreed that 'Lady literate in arts' be officially recognised as the interpretation of L.L.A."' In 1886 the Calendar indicates that 'To women who propose to become teachers, this title is equivalent to a Diploma, or Licence to teach, in the subjects in which they have passed or taken Honours.' 1887 saw the peak of the scheme's development and thereafter it became entangled in the demands for University Education of Women.
Once women were allowed to matriculate, it was necessary to view the continuing LLA as a diploma not a degree, but it was difficult for the University to define its status. Numbers continued to rise until 1910. The changes in personnel in those running the scheme and a transfer of the financial control to the University Court in 1910 hastened its decline and it was decided in 1927 to terminate the scheme from 1931. In all, 36,017 candidates entered during the scheme, of whom 11,441 were entered for the first time, and 27,682 passed in one or more subjects, with 5,117 receiving the LLA diploma. Officially the candidates were awarded a Certificate or Diploma, which was to be seen as equivalent of a Teaching Diploma in those subjects attained to Honours level, but, given that by 1886 the women were assessed at MA degree standard, it was a degree in all but name!
Women were to pass in seven subjects, at least one being a language, or to obtain Honours by passing at Honours level in one subject and five others, at Honours in two subjects and three others; or at Honours in three subjects and in one other. The ordinary diploma for teachers and the honours diploma for teachers were obtainable by selecting from LLA courses. Women were able to purchase a degree certificate, sash and badge within three months of the results of the examination being announced.
Surviving LLA records include registers of candidates and diplomas awarded, lists of subjects taken, letterbooks containing copies of outgoing letters, minutes of examining committees, fee registers, account books and receipts. However, the records of individual students become patchy after 1916.
See also A History of the LLA Examination and Diploma for Women and of the University Hall for Women Students at the University of St Andrews by William A. Knight. Printed John Leng & Co, Bank Street, Dundee, 1896