Most of us would attest to feeling considerably aged by our degrees. But one person has proved that age is no barrier to academic success.
85-year-old Roger Sturge from Bristol is researching the role of Quakers in Nazi Germany as part of a master’s degree at the Quaker Studies Research Centre based in Selly Oak, Birmingham.
Sturge, who is himself a Quaker, already has several qualifications, including a bachelor’s degree in Natural Sciences, a certificate in teacher training, a diploma in education, and two other master’s degrees.
“We’re not your normal run of postgraduate students – but I think I’m probably the oldest”
Roger Sturge, 85-year-old student
Inspired by a seminar four years ago, Sturge is now set to add another to his long list.
“I thought, why don’t I try that? I’m not too old,” he told the BBC.
“We’re an older crowd,” he said of his other students. “We’re not your normal run of postgraduate students – but I think I’m probably the oldest.”
His interest in the Quakers’ work in Germany stems from his father Paul’s work in the nation, where he had overall responsibility for British Quakers and highlighted the treatment of prisoners in concentration camps.
His efforts to expose this treatment contributed to the release of some of the imprisoned and even brought him into contact with the powerful Nazi leader Hermann Göring.
The course’s Honorary Professor, Ben Pink Dandelion, praised Roger’s work ethic: “He has drive and dedication and above all a passion for his topic. That’s the main factor for success, and Roger is able to combine that with great clarity of thought and organisation.”
Roger is not the only octogenarian to embark on studies at a British university. 86-year-old Stan Hardie was the oldest graduate of the University of Leicester’s class of 2023 when he achieved a PhD in History, while 85-year-old Anne Latto achieved her fifth degree at the University of Reading, a PhD in Storytelling, back in 2017.
The University of Warwick itself enjoys a large population of mature students, many of them clustered within Warwick Medical School and the Centre for Lifelong Learning. In its 2020-25 Access and Participation Plan, the University committed to further narrowing the attainment gap between students under 21 and mature students, with it already having fallen from 26% in 2013/14 to 16.9% in 2017/18.
Sturge plans to complete the course and receive his doctorate in 2025.