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Degree

title, doctor, faculties, arts, german, universities and faculty

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DEGREE. A title given by a university or college to those who have completed a more or less definitely prescribed course el study. While educational institutions corre sponding to our universities existed in ancient times, and while these undoubtedly gave to those who had completed a course of study some marks or title of distinction, the present academic degrees do not go back continuously further than the Middle Ages. As the titles doctor and master show, they were originally nothing more nor less than licenses to teach. They were also perfect synonyms; and it was only after some centuries of varying usage that the English universities came to appropriate the title of doctor to the higher faculties of theology, canon law and medicine, and the title master to the lower faculties of grammar and arts. The title of doctor was often ap plied to distinguished scholars, together with some laudatory epithet: thus Duns Scotus was known as the ((Subtle Doctor,p and Thomas Aquinas as the ((Angelic Doctor.P The degree was also sometimes conferred honorarily by the Pope or the Emperor, and those who re ceived it in this manner were known as doctores bullati. Those who received their degree in course, the doctores rite promoti, had to pre pare a thesis in Latin, read it in public and defend it against a doctor of their faculty, other selected adversaries, and in general against all corners. This custom survived in its original form in England until the middle of the last century. In Germany and America, though the doctoral dissertation is not read in public, the examination to which each candi date must submit consists in a large measure of a defense of his thesis against the members of his faculty or department.

The title of bachelor was not a degree at the time of its first appearance in the 13th century but merely indicated that its. possessor had fulfilled certain preliminary requirements for the degree of doctor or master. As the medixval courses varied from 4 years in arts to 14 in theology, the importance of the pre liminary title varied much between the different faculties. In the higher faculties, and eventu ally in arts, it took on the significance of a degree, except in France, where to the present day it represents merely the completion of a secondary education. Another preliminary de gree which gave the right to teach was the Licentiate, so called from the licentia docendi.

The licentiate stood between the baccalaureate and the doctorate.

In England the bachelor's degree is usually the first to be conferred, after a course of three years. The courses for the ordinary or pass degree and the honors degree, which is sub divided into three or four classes or levels of merit, are different, and each may be taken in several different subjects (schools at Oxford, triposes at Cambridge). There are special bachelor's degree for those from other institu tions, and in law and some other faculties. The master's degree in arts is generally con ferred without further examination upon the passage of a certain term of years and the pay ment of certain fees. The various doctor's degrees are generally either honorary, or are only given upon the production of mature scholarly works of real value. The German and American schemes, however, have been adopted by some of the newer universities. The University of London and some other institutions confer degrees by examination upon those not in residence. The British universities outside of England follow in general the Eng lish scheme, except in Canada, where the American system of degrees has had more or less influence, and in Scotland, where there is a different established tradition. In Scotland the master's degree in arts is not proceeded by a baccalaureate. The German universities give no other degree than that of doctor except in the faculty of theology, where there is also the degree of licentiate.

The vast majority of the students at a German university take the degree under the faculty of philosophy, and indeed this is a necessary preliminary to the degree under cer tain other faculties. The doctor's degree is given after the presentation of a thesis and examination, and is divided into four grades of excellence: rite, cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude. The title of privatdozent may almost be regarded as a de gree: it gives its possessor the venia legendi, or right of lecturing — collecting his own fees — at any German university. To acquire this right, a so-called Habilitationschrif t must be prepared and accepted. The German system of degree prevails to a greater or less extent throughout the Continent, though in most cases the degree of licentiate or master are also given.

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