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Open to all ages: 19 and 89 year olds graduate from OU

OU graduates David Cunningham and Kathryn O'Donnell

With 70 years between them, it might not seem like Kathryn O'Donnell and David Cunningham would have much in common; but together they have just collected their degrees as the youngest and oldest graduates at The Open University in Scotland’s recent ceremony. 

Kathryn, aged 19 from Cumbernauld, and David, aged 89 from Leven in Fife graduated alongside 600 students at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow and were joined by family and friends to celebrate their achievement. 

After struggling with her health, Kathryn chose the OU as it offered flexibility to continue with her education, whilst managing her condition.

She achieved a Bachelor of Arts Open degree, which she praises for helping her to secure her role as a civil servant with Social Security Scotland: 

“I chose to study with The Open University because I was struggling with my health, and it gave me the flexibility to focus both on my health and education. 

“Through the OU’s partnership with City of Glasgow College, I was able to use my HNC in Social Sciences to join my degree course in its second year. This allowed me to start studying at such a young age; many of my friends are still at university, whereas I’m now a graduate with a job.

“I’m really proud of this achievement and I’m planning to continue with my studies.” 

Retiree David collected his Bachelor of Law degree and is already studying towards his next OU qualification, a Bachelor of Arts Open degree, specialising in criminology, counselling and forensic psychology. David commented: 

“I attended Dundee University in the 60s, but with a family as a mature student it proved too much. Although I passed a few subjects I failed to graduate, which bothered me; so, when my wife was admitted to a care home, I decided to have another go. It has become a way of life!”

The OU in Scotland has over 20,000 people studying remotely across all parts of Scotland. As a world leader in supported online learning opportunities, the OU reaches a diverse range of students, of every age and background.

Susan Stewart, Director of the OU in Scotland, said: 

“The OU was founded on the principle that higher education should be open to everyone, regardless of age, income, geography and background. 

“Both Kathryn and David, in different ways, found the OU could help them overcome adversities and achieve their study dreams. Huge congratulations to them – we’re delighted to celebrate their graduation, as our oldest and youngest graduates.”

Photo by Julie Howden

1 November 2022



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