The oldest master: student who left school at 14 gets his third degree at 90

Former MI6 man takes British record for oldest graduate from 89-year-old 'youngster'

Bertie Gladwin was just looking for something to defy the onset of senility. He ended up becoming Britain's oldest recorded graduate at the age of 90, having left school at 14 to work as a greengrocer's delivery boy.

The country's previous oldest graduate was a mere 89 ("a youngster", according to Bertie) although a 96-year-old has graduated in philosophy in China.

Mr Gladwin graduated from Buckingham University in March with a Masters degree in Intelligence History, specialising on Bletchley Park, alongside his wife, Wendy, aged 79, who also gained a diploma in the same course at the same time.

"It was fun," he said. "I enjoyed it – although the most difficult bit was getting to grips with the computer and the internet for my essays. I needed help with that." Mr Gladwin is already the holder of two degrees from the Open University – a BA in psychology and a BSc in molecular biology, both of which he studied for while in his sixties.

This time round though he had a lot more contact with fellow students – many of whom were in the early 20s. "They'd invite me to all their things socially," he said, "but I decided I'd miss out on Rag Week. I still keep in contact with some by email."

Mr Gladwin remains tempted by the idea of further study – his interest would be aroused by a PhD in philosophy. "They call it a MPhil, though, now, and I'm not so keen on that," he said.

"Also, it's a three-year course. Wendy said the MA would be a good way to round off my academic career and would give me a good sense of accomplishment."

Bertie's advice to anyone considering a degree is to go for it at any age. "It is never too late to learn," he said.

Professor Anthony Glees, head of the MA degree course, said: "Bertie relishes political debate and certainly knew how to stir up a storm in seminars."

Despite leaving school in the mid-1930s for his delivery job, most of his working life was spent working for MI6 as an electronics engineer. "Visiting dodgy states and setting up alternative communications systems for the British embassies so they couldn't be overheard," he said.

He had developed a love of radio communications during the war when he served with the Royal Air Force. After that he worked for Marconi before heading to the Foreign Office.

He still enjoys spending time as a radio ham sending Morse messages to people as far away as Japan and Australia from the study of his home in Nash, near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. It was his experiences in MI6 which, he believes, held him in good stead for the MA course.

He never served at Bletchley Park – although he did work as its successor, Hanslope Park, for some time. For his dissertation, he did a 10,000-word essay on the role of the special operations executive in France during the Second World War – for which he gained a distinction.

He thinks that most of his twentysome- thing fellow students will be seeking a job with MI6 now. "Anybody who finished the course and came away with an MA would be very well thought of by MI6," he said. "There was a lot about terrorism and that sort of stuff on the course."

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to have a b...

Year 3 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...

Science Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Are you a qualified science t...

KS2 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Ofsted said "A good larger...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments