World's oldest student back at uni

THE world’s oldest graduating student has not yet satisfied his educational thirst and has enrolled at Lismore’s Southern Cross University at the young age of 95.

For Allan Stewart, of Tea Gardens, north of Newcastle, age holds no barrier to what can be accomplished and his enrolment in a Masters of Clinical Sciences comes in perfect timing with this week’s Seniors Week.

Mr Stewart first featured in the pages of the Guinness Book of Records when he became the oldest graduate at 92, graduating with a Bachelor of Law.

According to Southern Cross University admissions manager Sarah Beresford, there are currently 1047 students over 50 among the 16,000 students enrolled at SCU.

A father of six and retired dental practitioner, Mr Stewart now has a year of study ahead of him in which he hopes to learn more about the aging process.

“This is a great degree for me to study, not only because I get to research my passion, which is natural health and healthy aging, but also because it is so convenient to be able to study via distance education which is a more flexible study option for older people like me,” he said.

“As a health professional, and because of my age, I am keenly interested in this master’s qualification. Through my studies, I look forward to deriving considerable information on the aging body.

“Now that I have reached the age of 95 my thoughts are turning to what the future still holds for me. Obviously, you can’t make plans too far ahead, and you more or less live from day to day, but there is still more of life’s journey ahead, and that is the exciting part.

“And besides, people are always asking me the secret to my good health and for advice on healthy aging, so now I will have more answers to give them!”

Mr Stewart will be joining his 70-year-old daughter, Anne Hailes, who is also studying at SCU through distance education.

Mrs Hailes, who is in her third year of a Bachelor of Arts and Social Sciences degree, was encouraged by her ‘hugely inspiring’ father to enrol in university.

“He has been a great supporter and an inspiration to me,” Mrs Hailes said.

“When he was doing law he would bring his assignments with him when I saw him and we would sit and discuss them.

“And then one day he said to me he had taken a course and we will graduate together.

“When he was 92 years old and he graduated from university that was a world shattering event. Now he is 95 and studying again.”

A firm believer in keeping an active and healthy life, Mr Stewart is an ideal representation of Seniors Week’s theme, ‘Live Life!’

Beginning his study in 1936 Mr Stewart’s education took him to the USA, back to the University of Sydney, and now to SCU 74 years later.

But according to SCU admissions manager Sarah Beresford, Mr Stewart and his daughter are only one part of a growing trend of mature age students enrolling in university.

“We were all presently surprised when Allan passed through admissions, and it is great for us to see that we can still reach out to people who want to grow,” Ms Beresford said.

“We are definitely seeing more people finding university as a realistic and reachable goal.

“Overtime we have seen an increase in the amount of mature age students.”

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