What's it all about, Alfie?

October 22, 2004

Alfie Alexander, aged 86 and in the second year of a sociology degree at Aberdeen University, believes he is the UK's oldest undergraduate. He is certainly among the best qualified, with an honours MA in geography and BSc in ecology already under his belt, and probably the most active octogenarian in student politics, writes Olga Wojtas.

Mr Alexander first went to Aberdeen in 1937, but the outbreak of war in 1939 meant he joined the army with only a diploma in science. When he returned from service in India, he joined the family butchering business.

But in his seventies, he decided to return to higher education.

"Think young, act young and keep mixing with young people has been my philosophy in life," he said. "I've missed one class in 12 years. You keep your mind active and you've something to live for."

Mr Alexander has also taken classes in history and law, although he withdrew from a law degree after finding his earlier qualifications meant he was charged premium fees.

"I kicked up hell with the Scottish Parliament," he said. He hopes to return to law after graduating in sociology, a move that would surely enhance his reputation as a campaigner.

Mr Alexander is a member of the students association, the mature students association and has been class representative for the past 12 years. He serves on six committees.

When he first went to university, only 20 per cent of Aberdeen's students were women. He is delighted that women have now overtaken men. He is writing a sociology essay on manners that deplores the deterioration in men's courtesy towards women.

He said: "Women should be respected. They are being treated badly because they are trying so hard to get on to the pedestal that men are on. They are 90 per cent emancipated, and one day they will be completely emancipated.

Let them reach for the stars."

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