Historic Kate Kennedy Club in St Andrews to admit women
A historic university club which attracted criticism for its men-only stance has voted to let women become members.
The Kate Kennedy Club at St Andrews University agreed to change its policy at a meeting held earlier this week.
The club said it will accept applications from any first-year student in the next academic year.
The move comes after two existing members reportedly broke away from the club.
They formed a splinter group, the Kate Kennedy Fellowship, which admitted women.
University Principal Professor Louise Richardson said she was "delighted" with the club's decision.
The university - Scotland's oldest - cut its ties with the club in 2009, saying its values were "completely at odds" with those of the institution.
The society was founded in 1926, although its origins date back to the early 15th Century.
It is famous for its annual spring procession through the town, traditionally led by a male student dressed as a woman.
Following her installation three years ago as the first female principal of the university, Dr Richardson told students she could not endorse a club "from which so many of our students are excluded at birth".
A statement issued by the president, committee and members of the club indicated their intention to break from the 86-year-old all-male tradition.
It said: "At an extraordinary general meeting of the Kate Kennedy Club on Monday 19 March 2012, a formal motion was proposed to allow all first-year students, regardless of gender, to apply for membership to the Kate Kennedy Club. The motion was duly passed.
"The Kate Kennedy Club therefore looks forward to receiving applications from any first-year student in the Candlemas semester of the next academic year."
The statement added that the procession "remains at the heart" of the club.
The club's life members' association said it "welcomes and fully endorses" the decision to change the membership policy.
Dr Richardson, who is also the university's vice-chancellor, said: "I am delighted to welcome the decision by the Kate Kennedy Club to open its membership to female students.
"The annual Kate Kennedy procession is an important event for the local community and we look forward to seeing the involvement of our entire community in this year's event.
"This has been a tough few weeks for many in our study body. I appreciate how difficult it must have been for the current membership of the club to arrive at this decision in light of the weight of history they have felt."
A spokesman for the Kate Kennedy Trust said it "fully supports and warmly welcomes the decision".
The spokesman added: "Indeed, at a recent meeting of the trust, which was attended by all of the trustees, the trust gave unanimous support to the club to run the procession in the event that the club chose to alter its admissions policy.
"The trust is delighted that the Kate Kennedy Procession will be able to continue as planned not just for this year, but for many years to come."