Legally Grey: There is a group of pensioners studying law at the University of West London

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By Thomas Connelly on

We are up for the challenge, says 79-year-old fresher Maureen Matthews

Image via BBC

It would appear age really is just a number — if this group of law freshers at the University of West London (UWL) is anything to go by, anyway.

Of the approximately 25 over-70s that start full-time undergraduate degrees each year, a number have ended up in UWL’s law lecture theatres. Mike Derks, a law lecturer at UWL, thinks this is a good thing. He told Legal Cheek:

“Having a range of backgrounds and ages makes for a far richer university experience, and is something that all our students benefit from. Higher education makes such a huge difference and we are delighted to provide this opportunity.”

One of these over-70s is Maureen Matthews. At the sprightly age of 79, she has embarked on three-year law degree at the university in Brentford, West London.

“You may look at me and see an older face — as may many young people,” she told the BBC. “But through my eyes I’m experiencing the same aspirations that I had before. It’s always been to engage in involving myself in education.”

Ditching Countdown for contract law, Matthews now attends lectures alongside her ambitious training contract and pupillage-hunting peers. Unfazed, she explained:

“All older people are capable of being up for a challenge. They’ve been through life where they’ve had to meet many challenges. I would say to older people, recognise the fact that your hearing may have decreased, your eyesight may not be as good as it was before, maybe you can’t use the computer very well, but think about strategies that will enable you.”

Matthews, despite being almost 80, even took part in UWL’s freshers’ week. We wonder if she enjoyed the Jägerbomb-fueled bar crawl or the traffic light party the best.

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Incredibly, Matthews isn’t the oldest law student to grace the lecture theatres of UWL this year.

Matthews’ pal Craigan Surujballi is 84-years-old and shows no signs of slowing down. With a desire to continue educating himself, Caribbean-born Surujballi wants to use his law degree to help people with legal issues at his local Citizens Advice centre.

But who is to say a career in legal practice is off the cards?

Across the pond, a corporate lawyer at US outfit Skadden recently celebrated his 100th birthday. Bentley Kassal fought in World War II and has no intention of retiring.

Whether Matthews and Surujballi end up going into law or not, they certainly have the respect of their more fresh faced UWL law students. “Maureen and Craigan are an inspiration to all of us,” said LLB-er Omar Idrees. He continued:

“They’ve proved to us that no matter how old you are, no matter what life has put you through, you can walk in and say, ‘This is what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m still young, I can still do it.'”

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