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Grandpa Grad: 76-Year-Old Student Finally Completes Ph.D. After Over 50 Years of Studying
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Grandpa Grad: 76-Year-Old Student Finally Completes Ph.D. After Over 50 Years of Studying

How far would you go for something you really want?

If you're looking to dig deep this semester, how about grabbing some motivation from a student who started his Ph.D. in 1970?

The determined student earned his doctorate from the University of Bristol 52 years after starting his Ph.D. studies in the United States.

Dr. Nick Axten, now 76 years young, said he needed “a long hard think” before completing his Ph.D. over fifty years later.

In 1970, Dr. Axten received the prestigious Fulbright scholarship for a Ph.D. in mathematical sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. But after five years of study, he returned to the United Kingdom with his Ph.D. unfinished.

“What I was trying to do in the early 70s was exceptionally difficult.” Said Axton. “Some problems are so great it takes the best part of a lifetime to get your head around them. They need a long hard think. This one has taken me 50 years."

Dr. Axten’s research builds on the ideas he was working on in the United States over five decades ago. It is a new theory for understanding human behavior based on individual human values. Dr. Axten believes it has the potential to change the world’s view of behavioral psychology.

Senior graduates bristol university 50 years
University of Bristol

When Axten began his undergraduate degree in Leeds in 1967, he said, “It was still flower power and there was a revolutionary feel. It was the time of the Vietnam War, Paris, Prague, and student sit-ins. Jack Straw was president of the students’ union in Leeds. Sociology and psychology were suddenly boom subjects. I went to study them because I wanted to understand people.”

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“I loved being a student again at Bristol University. All of the other philosophy graduate students were around 23 but they accepted me as one of their own. They are clever people full of ideas and I loved talking with them – especially at the pub in the afternoon.”

“Doing a Ph.D. is a lot of hard work, but it’s been brilliant.”

- Dr. Nick Axten

Dr. Axten resumed his studies in 2016 at age 69 at the University of Bristol to complete a Master of Arts in Philosophy. He then began work on a Ph.D. in Philosophy at the same university, finishing his studies in 2022, at age 75.

University of Bristol supervisor, Professor Samir Okasha, said of Axten: “Nick was an incredibly enthusiastic, energetic, and committed student during his time here.
“It’s fantastic to see him graduate half a century after he started his original Ph.D.”

During a varied career, Axten lived in many cities in the United Kingdom and was the creator and principal author of Oxford International Primary Science.

On February 14, 2023, the University of Bristol awarded Axten a Doctor of Philosophy in front of his wife Claire and his 11-year-old granddaughter Freya.

Keep your mind on the prize — even if it takes you 50 years to get there!

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