Licentiate of Theology

The Licentiate of Theology or the Licence in Theology (LTh is the usual abbreviation) is a theological qualification commonly awarded for ordinands and laymen studying theology in the United Kingdom, Malta, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The academic rank varies from undergraduate degree to master's degree.

A qualification similar to the LTh is the two-year postgraduate Licentiate of Sacred Theology (STL), available from pontifical universities.

United Kingdom

The Licence in Theology was one of two courses (the other being the Bachelor of Arts degree course) offered by Durham University at its opening in 1833 and was first awarded in 1834. The course initially had a standard length of two years, reduced to one for graduates of Oxford and Cambridge; this was raised to three years for 1841–1846, but this led to a serious fall in numbers and it returned to two years from 1846. It ran in a variety of different forms, including being offered with honours for a period from 1864, but closed in 1946. From the late 19th century the LTh could be gained at Anglican theological colleges affiliated to Durham without the need for residence at the university.[1][2] The Common Awards validated by Durham and offered to all Church of England ordinands since 2014, as well as trainee ministers from the Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed churches, include a variety of degree and non-degree qualifications. However, these follow the naming conventions of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications and do not include a license in theology.[3]

St David's College, Lampeter awarded a Licence in Divinity (LD) from 1884 to c. 1940. The LTh, introduced in 1971, was intended for graduate ordinands, and was equivalent to the final year of a bachelor's degree.[4] The course is now offered by the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, the successor institution of St David's College, although titled Graduate Diploma in Bible and Theology in keeping with the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications.[5]

The University of Aberdeen offered a Licence in Theology until 2002, when it was withdrawn due to the Church of Scotland deciding to no longer recognise the degree.[6]


In Canada, a four-year LTh is offered by Emmanuel College, Toronto.


In Australia in former years, theological colleges that were not associated with Universities offered programmes which led to the award of a Licentiate in Theology, abbreviated ThL. For many years the ThL was a prerequisite to ordination as an Anglican priest, however nowadays the ThL is a "non award" course: i.e., it is not recognised by other institutions for entry to higher degrees, and persons wishing to be ordained usually complete a Bachelor of Theology at an accredited university, to enable them to later take an advanced degree if desired.

New Zealand

In New Zealand the LTh is offered by the Ecumenical Institute for Distance Theological Studies and was the standard avenue to ordination in the Anglican Church; it remains the standard for part-time distance ordinands.

See also


  1. J. T. Fowler (1904). Durham university; earlier foundations and present colleges. F. E. Robinson & co. pp. 51–53.
  2. Nicholas Grooves (2011). Shaw's Academical Dress of Great Britain and Ireland (3rd ed.). Burgon Society. pp. 160–161.
  3. "Common Awards Programmes". Durham University. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  4. Nicholas Grooves (2011). Shaw's Academical Dress of Great Britain and Ireland (3rd ed.). Burgon Society. pp. 238–239.
  5. "Graduate Diploma in Bible and Theology". University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  6. Undergraduate programme committee in Divinity. "Minutes of the Meeting Held on 5 December 2002". University of Aberdeen. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
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