‘I do not feel old at all: 80-year-old Kingston University fresher embracing student life

A retired business woman and grandmother-of-two has started university at 80 years old.

Hilary Chalkly began her MA in creative writing at Kingston University last month and hasn’t looked back.

Mrs Chalkly, who has never been to university before, attended her first lecture on Tuesday, September 27 where she was introduced to her new tutors and class mates.

Mrs Chalkly said: “Words cannot describe how supportive both the teachers and the students have been towards me.

“It doesn’t bother me that I am the oldest in the class because I do not feel old at all.”

Mrs Chalkly, who has three children and two grandchildren, left school at the age of 15 with just one O-Level in English.

But getting used to student life is something the previous nightclub owner is very excited about, although she described the reading list as ‘a bit heavy’.

“I applied tongue-in-cheek and I couldn’t believe it when I got the acceptance letter,” she said.

“My husband Syd said, ‘You can come back down from the ceiling now’.”

The determined pensioner hopes her actions will encourage other mature students to take the leap regardless of their age.

“I know people who hit their late 70s and 80s and give you the impression they’re sitting waiting to die,” Mrs Chalkly said.

“I want people of my generation to realise there’s a whole life to continue living. It’s never too late to learn.”

Mrs Chalkly is a proud member of The Romantic Novelist Association and has previously written a novel which is not published yet.

She is also in the middle of finishing the sequel to her first book which she believes the course will help her accomplish.

When the course is finished the novelist hopes to put everything she has learnt to good use and is planning to write a third novel as her ideas for story telling are ever flowing.

Dr Alison Baverstock, associate professor in the School of Humanities at Kingston University, who grew up in Berkhamsted, said: “Kingston University believes very strongly in life-long learning, learning enriches your life at whatever stage you decide to get involved.

“I’m hugely in favour of mature students – they bring a life experience to their cohort which is invaluable, they always tend to be committed and add a real energy to the learning environment.

“People taking masters are no longer automatically coming from degree courses, many people take longer before deciding what to do – although not normally as long as this.”


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