- By Tess de la Mare and PA Media
- bbc news
A student has finally earned his PhD more than 50 years after starting his PhD.
Dr. Nick Axten, 76, began his thesis in mathematical sociology at the University of Pittsburgh in the United States in 1970.
But after five years he returned to the UK with an unfinished PhD.
The University of Bristol awarded him a PhD in front of his wife Claire Axten and their 11-year-old granddaughter Freya.
He had been awarded a prestigious Fulbright scholarship, but he said his research had been “exceptionally difficult.”
“Some problems are so big that it takes most of your life to understand them. They need long and deep reflection,” he said.
“This one has taken me 50 years.”
Dr. Axten’s research is a new theory for understanding human behavior.
It is based on the values that each person has, which Dr. Axten believes has the potential to change the view of behavioral psychology.
Now the father of two children and grandfather of four, he began his university studies in Leeds in 1967.
“It was still flower power and there was a revolutionary feeling. It was the time of the Vietnam War, Paris, Prague and student sit-ins,” he recalled.
“Jack Straw was president of the Students’ Union in Leeds. Sociology and psychology suddenly became hot topics. I went to study them because I wanted to understand people.”
Dr Axten, from Wells, Somerset, said he loved his time as a mature student at the University of Bristol between 2016 and 2022.
“All the other philosophy grad students were around 23 years old, but they accepted me as one of their own,” he said.
“They are intelligent people full of ideas and I loved talking to them, especially in the pub in the evening.”
During a varied career, Dr Axten lived throughout the UK and was the creator and lead author of the Oxford Primary Science teaching programme.