Sheffield student, 86, proves you’re never too old to learn

86 yrs old Graham Bell
86 yrs old Graham Bell
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A SHEFFIELD man who was branded a complete failure as a schoolboy is to graduate from university... at the grand old age of 90.

At 86 retired steel worker Graham Bell is old enough not just to be the tutor, but the great-grandfather of some of those studying alongside him at Sheffield University.

Mr Bell, who is due to complete his studies in four years’ time, is studying for a degree in French through the Institute of Lifelong Learning at the university.

He is one of the institution’s oldest-ever students.

Mr Bell, from Handsworth, failed the 11 plus and left school at 13 .

But he began studying French in his 40s when his son took an O-level in the subject.

“I wondered if I could do it,” he said.

“I did, and then I went on and got an A-level. It’s snowballed from there.”

He completed his first degree, in Combined Studies, at Sheffield Hallam University at the relatively tender age of 74.

Mr Bell said: “I’ve been interested in France and the French all my life.

“In fact, I think that in a previous life I could have been at Versailles with Louis XIV.

“It gives you a great feeling if you can speak to people in another language.”

Mr Bell, who was awarded an MBE in 2006, says studying French has changed an awful lot since he started.

“Back then, I had to read the French classics and poetry, including Baudelaire, but they don’t do that any more,” he said.

“Instead, it’s a lot more about speaking and learning how to have conversations with people.

“I did it for the fun of it, not because I wanted another degree especially, but the university said that if I wanted the funding then I had to do a degree.

“What am I going to do with a degree at the age of 90? I got a 2:2 last time but this time I’ll be happy with a pass.”

Between his studies, Mr Bell has raised more than £10,000 for Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind and Brunswick Gardens.