Two UWE graduates show that life long learning is for real

Issue date: 02 December 2005

Two UWE graduates show that life long learning is for real

The University of the West of England recently awarded an MA in History to Sheilagh Myatt, who at 83 wins the title of UWE’s most mature graduate. Sheilagh was awarded the Degree at a special ceremony at the Conifers at St Matthias Campus in the company of her lecturers, Michael Woodiwiss, Mike Richards and Ann Kennard.

Sheilagh and her husband Derek Myatt studied for their first degree at UWE as a testament to their love affair with Spain. After taking evening classes in Spanish and studying for GCSE and A levels at their local FE College, they both came to UWE and graduated with BA (Hons) in Spanish and European Studies in 1999. They have since devoted time to a new found interest in History. Derek graduated with his MA in History last year.

Ann Kennard was Award Leader on the BA and a tutor on one of their undergraduate modules. She has become a friend of the Myatts. She said, “I just feel so inspired by Derek and Sheilagh, they are the best advert for life long learning I have ever met!”

The Myatts first visited Spain in 1960, driving overland to Andalusia, at a time when travel was not the mass occupation that it is now. Sheilagh said, “Spain was comparatively primitive when we first went there. What attracted us particularly was the way people were relatively unsophisticated, open, honest and hospitable.” Since that time they have returned to Spain every year, including a full year when they were in their 40’s and a year on placement at the University of Malaga, when they were in their late 70’s.

Sheilagh said that when they went on placement to Malaga they were the only mature students on the course. She said, “One Spanish student asked us why we wanted to learn Spanish and what interested us in Spain. Once I had replied, she said in tones of disbelief ‘What - you mean you are doing this for pleasure?’ as though learning for the sake of it was unheard of.”

Sheilagh chose the changing role of women in Spain since the death of Franco as her project for her placement year. She said, “Women were liberated when Franco died and this era in history demonstrates such radical changes in Spanish women’s lives, that it made a very interesting topic to investigate in depth.”

Sheilagh’s closing comment before leaving Conifers paid tribute to the constant support and encouragement that she and Derek had received from everyone, with whom they had come into contact during their two courses, with particular reference to Mike Woodiwiss during the final MA year, and Ann Kennard throughout the whole of the time of what Sheilagh described as “our happy and rewarding years at UWE.”

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