Studying at St Mary’s During Retirement
Dr Anton Joseph, formerly a consultant radiologist at St George’s Hospital and honorary senior lecturer in the University of London, decided at the age of 80 to study for a master’s degree in Theology at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. We spoke to him recently about his decision to study theology in his retirement, his experience studying at St Mary’s, and his advice for anyone considering returning to university education during their retirement.
Why did you choose to undertake your Masters’ degree and why theology?
I had a deep interest in religion, especially an academic interest. When I retired it seemed natural to continue with an interest in gaining a deeper understanding of the basis for my religious beliefs. I was fortunate that I had contact with Dr John Lydon, Associate Professor at St Mary’s, also a member of the Catenian Association. When he realised my interest in Theology, he introduced me to Dr Jacob Phillips, Head of the Institute of Theology and Liberal Arts, who was pleased when I expressed an interest to register for an MA in Theology.
I was encouraged that Jacob was enthusiastic over my suggestion of transubstantiation as a topic for my dissertation. It seemed to me that it was as much a challenge to me as it might be for him. My interest in the MA was also in gaining credibility to continue with an active academic interest in religion.
How did you find your time at St Mary’s?
My experience on the course was very positive especially the interactive teaching encouraged by all the lecturers. This was conducive to a very pleasant learning experience. It is no exaggeration if I said that I was reminded of the saying that ‘a cow yearns to suckle more than the calf yearns to suck’, such was the enthusiasm of all the teachers.
I felt encouraged to think freely and trained to remain within the teachings of the church while being creative in my thinking to fit the needs of the contemporary world. The course was well defined in its modular structure with a great choice of modules to cater to a wide range of the needs of those interested in theology.
What advice would you give someone looking to going back to education, or to someone considering postgraduate study?
Having turned eighty when I decided to revert to being a student, I must confess to having some reservations. But I was delighted to say that I took the step much to the surprise of my friends and colleagues. I would certainly be pleased to share my experience of what might be described as that of ‘a mature student’ especially at St Mary’s.
I felt that my retirement was very well spent. There was a special flavour to learning at an older age. It is a great experience to delve into matters that troubled one’s mind over the years. I felt I could express my views with a degree of freedom. I was further convinced that there is no limitation to when one stops learning or thinking!
I feel I have the confidence to continue my research into aspects of religion in which I gained in-depth knowledge. My time at St Mary’s was well spent and it gives me the ability to further enhance my thinking and research into the knotty problems that one encounters in religion.
I feel that I have been better prepared to remain in the academic environment. I would love to be within the academic environment of a university but sadly opportunities are not readily available. I am also aware of the limitations for publication in a field such as theology but I hope that opportunities might still arise.