86-year-old PhD graduate amongst University of Leicester’s Class of 2023

Stan shakes hands with Chancellor, Lord David Willets

An 86-year-old was amongst the thousands of students who graduated from the University of Leicester last week.

Stan Hardie was awarded a PhD in History on Thursday (17 January), making him the oldest graduate of the University’s Class of 2023.

Stan, who lives in Surrey, left school at 16 and worked in the insurance industry and eventually in the City of London before retiring in the 1990s.

After retirement, he embarked on a history degree at the Open University. Stan said: “When I retired and I was uncertain what I wanted to do, my older brother encouraged me to look at the Open University.

“I enrolled and after doing their Foundation Course I signed up for a History module and was hooked.”

After graduating from the Open University, Stan realised that he wanted to study further.

He first looked at starting his PhD at Open University but there was nobody to supervise him.

He then started researching for his PhD at Birkbeck, University of London in 2015 but poor health forced him to withdraw.

In 2019, Stan decided to reach out to the University of Leicester, home of the Centre for Regional and Local History.

Stan’s PhD thesis focused on the parish of Meare in Somerset and the various factors which may have influenced migration decisions and the outcomes of those decisions during the second half of the nineteenth century.

Talking about where his love of history began, Stan said: “At school, the history teacher was about the only member of staff I related to. However, that was to history in general.

“More particularly to political history, it was only when I enrolled in the Open University after I retired that I was gradually drawn to an interest in Social History.”

On completing his PhD, Stan said: “I am really relieved. Seriously, I am very pleased with it.”

He was asked if he had any further plans for studying. Stan said: “I think at 86 years of age I have done as much as I can.”

Stan’s advice for anyone who is considering further study after retirement: “Go for it! Studying has given me great pleasure and a sense of achievement I don’t think I ever felt in a reasonably successful business career. It opened up new worlds for me.”

Stan’s PhD supervisor, Dr Steven King (now of Nottingham Trent University) said: “Stan was a model student. He did an enormous amount of primary research and applied it to produce an extremely effective PhD focusing on migration in Somerset. I offer him my warmest congratulations.”

Dr Richard Jones, Acting Director of the Centre for Regional and Local History at University of Leicester said: 'We are naturally delighted that Stan has received his well-earned doctorate. He proves that you're never too old to take on the intellectual challenge of a PhD.

“Over the years, our Centre has hosted students at every stage of their academic journey, from those in their early 20s fresh out of their undergraduate degrees, to retirees like Stan returning to their studies after long and successful careers outside academia.

“It is a record we are proud of and one we continue to maintain. So if you are interested in local or regional history, family history, or landscape history, irrespective of your age, we'd love to hear from you and welcome you into the Centre too.”

Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, Professor Phil said: “We are very proud of all of our postgraduate research students, who are critical to the success of our research endeavour at the University of Leicester. Our postgraduate research students come from many different and diverse backgrounds.

“That said, for Stan to be awarded his doctorate at the age of 86 is a particularly remarkable achievement and demonstrates that it is never too late to embark on academic study. Our sincere congratulations go to Stan, and I hope he celebrates this very special accomplishment.”