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Archbishop's Awards and Examinations

The Archbishop makes specific awards each year in the form of the Lambeth Degrees, the Archbishop's Examination in Theology and the Cross of St Augustine.

Lambeth Degrees

The Peter's Pence Act of 1533 gave the Archbishop of Canterbury the power to grant academic degrees (previously carried out by the Pope). It allowed the Archbishop to override the requirements of the only two universities at the time, Oxford and Cambridge, and dispense candidates from residency and, in some cases, examination, at a time when it was difficult to travel to the universities, often because of outbreaks of the plague. This power did, and still does, require confirmation by the Crown and so the degrees are known as 'degrees of the realm'. All recipients have to be able to swear an oath to the monarch since the act of 1533 speaks of the monarch conferring degrees to his subjects. The Archbishop's power to continue to grant these degrees is expressly set out in the Education Reform Act 1988.

These honorary degrees are full and 'real' degrees in that the recipient must have already done work worthy of the degree but the Archbishop dispenses the candidate from residence and examination. The degrees are also given as a thanksgiving from the Church for distinguished service. They can be awarded in Divinity, Law, Arts, Medicine or Music. Of course all degrees are awarded entirely at the discretion of the Archbishop.

Possible recipients do not apply for a degree themselves but are nominated by someone who knows them and their work very well. In order to make a nomination please send a full CV, together with letters of support from others who know of the nominee’s work and can attest to his or her contribution, to:

The Archbishop's Awards Secretary
Lambeth Palace
London SE1 7JU

The Cross of St Augustine

The Cross of St AugustineThe Cross of St Augustine was founded by Archbishop Michael Ramsey and was first awarded in February 1965. There are gold, silver and bronze crosses but in recent years the Archbishop has generally awarded silver crosses.

The Cross is presented to a small number of clergy and lay people each year who have given long and exceptionally distinguished service to the Church of England or the Anglican Communion or, occasionally, other Christian denominations. There is no legal process involved so, unlike the degrees, the recipients do not have to be British or Commonwealth citizens.

Like the Lambeth Degrees, a potential recipient must be nominated by someone who knows them and the contribution they have made very well. Again, the awards are made entirely at the discretion of the Archbishop.

To make a nomination please submit a full CV, together with letters of support from others who know of the nominee’s work and can attest to his or her contribution, to:

The Archbishop's Awards Secretary
Lambeth Palace
London SE1 7JU

The Archbishop's Examination in Theology

Until 2007 the Archbishop's Examination in Theology comprised the Diploma of Student in Theology (the Lambeth Diploma) and the Degree of Master of Arts by Thesis (the Lambeth MA).

The Lambeth Diploma was instituted in 1905 by Archbishop Randall Davidson. It provided an opportunity for women to study theology, principally so that they could teach religious education in schools and churches. In later decades it was open to both men and women and the means of study was either by examination or thesis.

The Lambeth MA was inaugurated by Dr Runcie in 1990 in order to provide an opportunity for theological study at a more advanced level. The Department for Education and Skills viewed the Lambeth MA in the same light as a Lambeth Degrees MA, in that it was examined to the level of an Oxbridge Masters degree and the Archbishop dispensed the students from residence - once again it was a 'degree of the realm'.

In 2007 the Archbishop's Examination in Theology moved in a new direction. The Council introduced an MPhil research degree, with the opportunity to extend to a PhD, while the Lambeth MA was phased out as students completed the course. After further evaluation in 2009, the Council also decided to phase out the Lambeth Diploma in order to focus its resources in the research degree programme.

The reasoning behind the introduction of the MPhil/PhD courses was to meet the unparalleled challenges and opportunities faced by the Church through offering opportunities for thorough, critical and detailed research, and analysis and interpretation. These research courses are offered at a level that meets QAA requirements but at a reasonable cost and with 'user-friendly' access. However although tutors will be fully qualified, students will receive a more limited service than they would from the Open University or similar courses. As many of our students are engaged in full time employment as well as having family commitments we want to utilise the concept of 'work-based learning'.

For further information about the MPhil/PhD research degrees please write or email:

The Administrative Officer
Archbishop's Examination in Theology
Lambeth Palace
London SE1 7JU