87-year-old student returns to Abertay

Scotland’s oldest graduate is bidding to enrol at Abertay University to undertake his ninth degree – at the age of 87

Alec Stewart from Dundee has completed a staggering seven degrees since returning to further and higher education aged 65. 

The pensioner, originally from the Lochee area, plans to apply for either an Environmental Science and Technology or Criminology course to add to his incredible string of qualifications from both Abertay and the University of Dundee.

Since 2001, the ex-serviceman has completed an MA (Hons) American and French Studies, BSc Town Planning, BA Tourism Studies, BA European Economy Management, MA English Literature, BSc Sociology and an MA Philosophy. Last year he took on an MA General Studies course.

A former Logie High School pupil, Alec said he knew he always had the intelligence but didn’t begin his academic career until he retired from work. “I would like to get another degree from Abertay because I enjoyed my previous time here, the staff were very helpful and I managed to get through a degree year.’

After I retired I wanted to see what was possible and to go into higher education to do something I could enjoy

At the age of 14, Alec had wanted to attend Harris Academy but his parents could not afford the fee. Instead he went to work as a labourer in Dundee’s McTavish & McAinsh sawmill to help put food on the table for his brother and sister. After moving onto building sites for better wages, Alec, who is married with three children, was called up to the RAF where he served as a radar operator, for 10 years. His son Simon Stewart studied geology, while younger brothers Jonathan and Dominic graduated in medicine and law respectively. Alec said: “After I retired I wanted to see what was possible and to go into higher education to do something I could enjoy.“My three sons are graduates so I knew what it was about and felt I could cope. I’ve made a point in my late years of studying different subjects.  

“I’m not looking for a job so I don’t need to look at every degree being a PhD or something like that. I say to myself ‘use your brain Alec and change your subject with each degree’. It means your brain is pretty full of a lot of stuff. I find that once in a tutorial or seminar group the younger students get to know you and they are always asking questions. They always want to know who the old man is.

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