Charles Betty PhD veteran

Charles Betty was awarded his PhD on Thursday (Photo: SWNS).

A 95-year-old D-Day veteran who left school with no qualifications has become Britain’s oldest university student after he was awarded his second PhD.

Charles Betty, who moved to the Costa del Sol in 1986, flew from his home in the Spanish town of Benalmádena to attend his graduation ceremony at the University of Northampton on Thursday.

After leaving school aged 14 with no qualifications, Mr Betty joined the Army and served in the D-Day Landings as a Corporal with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

Two years ago, he was awarded the Legion d’Honneur by the French Government on Bastille Day for his participation in the operation in June 1944.

Mr Betty took five years to complete the long-distance course and wrote his 48,000-word thesis on why elderly expats living in Spain return to the UK.

Now a Doctor of Philosophy in two areas, he only started his academic career after retiring from his work as a school inspector aged 70.

Mr Betty was first a primary school teacher and a headmaster before becoming a local authority school inspector in Nottinghamshire in the 1970s.

He then completed two Masters degrees from the Universities of Brighton and Nottingham before being awarded a doctorate in Education for a long-distance learning degree at the Californian Coast University at the age of 75.

Mr Betty said: “I come from an ordinary working-class background, born in Fleetwood, Lancashire, in 1923, where we had no history of degrees or going to university.

"I never really thought about studying, but when I came home from France after the war, I was demobbed from the Army and I saw a notice which said that after the war the country will need lots of teachers and anyone interested should apply.

"I had no qualifications, but I was able to train in Liverpool to get my teaching certificate and I went on from there.”

His wife, Eileen, said: "I think it's wonderful and I’m particularly proud of him. Charles loves learning and researching. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he continues his studies.”

Veteran PhD Charles Betty
Mr Betty and his wife of 73 years, Eileen (Photo: SWNS).

His daughter, Jillian Oakham, 68, said: “I think it’s a spectacular achievement. He was brought up in hard times, you have to have a special drive to work your way out of those kind of situations.”

Mr Betty revealed the secret of his determination:

“When I first moved to Spain I was told that you live longer if you do two things, laugh a lot and keep your mind occupied.”

A spokesman from the University of Northampton officially confirmed that Mr Betty is the oldest person to ever be awarded a PhD by a British university.

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