Grandmother schools us in determation after becoming the oldest University of Bristol graduate

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Megan Murray
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In our books, Dr Peggy Styles wins the award for coolest grandmother. Not only does she have an awesome name and enviable pixie crop, but this badass has just slayed uni-life at nearly 90.

The 86-year-old from Somerset has been teaching young’uns everywhere that it’s never too late to reach for the stars, after becoming the oldest ever person to graduate from the University of Bristol.

Entitled Old Wives Tales? Changing my Perception of the World, Styles’ dissertation is just as interesting as the woman herself. It explores society’s evolving attitudes to women in education. Being born just before the war, the wife and mother has used her own life as a timeline to compare how attitudes to female education have changed through history.

Through a staggering 48-thousand-words, Styles recognises that through culture, “society's attitudes towards the education of women has gradually changed”.

Speaking to the university’s website, she said: “I was young during wartime and going to university wasn’t really on anyone’s agenda at all. Life was quite different.

“Although the post-war period is still within living memory, culture has changed so much. This is one of the reasons I wanted to write about how society's attitude towards the education of women has gradually changed.”

In fact, the graduate counts herself “lucky” that she was accepted into the university in the first place. 

“I was lucky that the University of Bristol took me on for my postgraduate certificate and diploma in the 90s, especially as I had no A-levels,” said Styles.

“After that I think I got slightly addicted to learning and the University has become like a second home. What I’ll miss most is my fellow students and tutors – they've all been so nice.”

Styles was forced to put her doctorate on hold after becoming seriously ill with a kidney-infection.

Now, after a total of eight years of studying and an 18-month break, the graduate has been awarded her EdD, which she says she was “determined” to get.

Styles explained the seriousness of her situation, which highlights even further how inspiring her efforts have been.

“I was so ill that I nearly died,” she said.

“I was in hospital for a month and had to learn to walk again. The university was absolutely super and agreed to suspend my studies until I felt better. I was determined to finish my doctorate.”

Sadly, Styles’s husband passed away as she was finishing her studies, which if anything makes her achievement even more inspiring.

At her graduation last week, the grandmother was surrounded by family including her daughter, son-in-law and three grandsons. Before picking up her certificate, the graduate made it clear how important education is to her, saying “I’d keep studying forever if I could”.

While there is still so much to be done for women’s education rights all over the world, this octogenarian's motivation and determination proves nothing should be a barrier to education, least of all age.

We salute you, Dr Peggy Styles

Images: iStock