Podcast - Examinations and girls' education

Examinations and girls' education

20 Nov 2020 (3:09)

Download this podcast (mp3, 2.2mb)

Examinations and girls’ education - an extract from Chapter 2 of Examining the World: A History of the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, by Andrew Watts.

As part of a special series of short podcasts, Cambridge Assessment's Group Archivist Gillian Cooke shares a unique insight into the history of exams. 

Find out more about our Archives & Heritage

Podcast transcript

Alana Walden: [00:00:06.74] Hello. Welcome to the Cambridge Assessment Podcast.

Alana Walden: [00:00:10.54] I'm Alana Walden, and I'm here to introduce a special series from Cambridge Assessment's Archives and Heritage.

Alana Walden: [00:00:18.64] In each episode, our Group Archivist, Gillian Cooke shares short extracts from Examining the World: A History of the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate.

Alana Walden: [00:00:30.34] Our publication that shares a unique insight into the history of exams.

Gillian Cooke: [00:00:35.94] Examinations and girls, taken from Examining the World, Chapter 2 by Andrew Watts.

Gillian Cooke: [00:00:43.14] For the first five years, the Cambridge Examinations were open only to boys, but a decision was taken in 1863 that girls could 'unofficially' sit the examinations that December.

Gillian Cooke: [00:00:54.11] The girls had only six weeks to prepare, but the campaigners were determined to make the best of the opportunity

Gillian Cooke: [00:00:59.84] Eighty-three girls took the examinations at the North London Collegiate School run by Miss Frances Mary Buss, who was a campaigner for women's education for most of the second half of the nineteenth century.

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:22.24] A positive report was published in February 1865 and, though the proposal was seriously opposed in the University's Council of the Senate, entry for girls on the same basis as boys was agreed for a three year period.

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:36.17] That year, 126 girls took exams in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Manchester, Bristol and Sheffield.

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:50.47] In 1868 another memorial was sent to the Vice-Chancellor noting that 'there is not in this country some recognised test of the capacity and attainments of women who desire to become teachers in families or schools'.

Gillian Cooke: [00:02:03.94] Therefore in 1869 a Higher Local Examination for women was instituted, for which the age for admission was eighteen.

Gillian Cooke: [00:02:11.68] The Higher Locals were opened to men six years later, but the number of male candidates was always small.

Gillian Cooke: [00:02:17.94] By 1898 there were 1173 candidates for the Higher Local Examination.

Gillian Cooke: [00:02:34.34] The Syndicate also became formally responsible for the arrangements by which Newnham and Girton students, although still unable to be members of the University, were allowed to take the university degree examinations.

Alana Walden: [00:02:46.54] Thank you for listening to the Cambridge Assessment podcast.

Alana Walden: [00:02:49.76] You can find more of our podcast on our website, just search for Podcast Gallery.

Alana Walden: [00:02:54.13] Or you can find us on YouTube, Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

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