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Bachelor of Arts; the most junior of the University’s degrees. For accounts of the course at various times see, successively, A. B. Cobban, The medieval universities: Oxford and Cambridge to c. 1500 (Aldershot, 1988); D. R. Leader, A history of the university of Cambridge , Vol. 1, The university to 1546 (Cambridge, 1988); idem, ‘Teaching in Tudor Cambridge’, History of Education , XIII:2 (June 1984), 105-20; W. T. Costello, The scholastic curriculum in seventeenth-century Cambridge (Cambridge, Mass., 1958); John Gascoigne, Cambridge in the age of the Enlightenment (Cambridge, 1989); C. Wordsworth, Scholae academicae: some account of the studies of the English universities in the eighteenth century (London, 1877; reprinted New York, 1968); Peter Searby, A history of the university of Cambridge, Vol. III, 1750-1870 (1997); C. N. L. Brooke, Ibid., Vol. IV, 1870-1990 (Cambridge, 1993).

Briefly, the medieval course extended over four years (which could sometimes be shortened by use of the vacation term). In the early modern period an undergraduate normally, in his fourth year of residence, attended the incepting Bachelors, ‘standing in quadragesima’. Besides this he read two theses and kept two responsions and two opponencies. At the end of his third year he was examined by his college and, if approved, became a questionist; before Ash Wednesday in the Lent Term following he was examined by the Proctors, or their deputies, the ‘posers’ or ‘moderators’, acquired a supplicat from his college, and, after the formality of ‘answering to his questions’ in the schools, was admitted Bachelor Designate. After Ash Wednesday he took his turn ‘standing in quadragesima’ until the Thursday before Palm Sunday and then received from the Proctors the full degree of Bachelor of Arts.

Prior to 1884 all those admitted to the title of BA designate completed the inauguration of their degree on the second day of the Easter Term following, e.g. all those thus admitted after 6 April 1872 completed their degree on 19 April 1873. From 1884 the day of the inauguration of the degrees of BA and LL.B. was the last day of Michaelmas Term following. There are thus two sets of 1884 BAs: those who were admitted on 14 and 17 June 1884, and who completed their degrees on 19 Dec. and those had been admittted BA designate in 1883 and who completed their degrees on 17 June. This accounts for the apparent anomaly, in Venn and other sources, of BAs who graduated in, say, 1534, after Ash Wednesday, being listed as BAs of 1535.