Colette Bourlier, 91, became one of the oldest women in France to earn a PhD on Tuesday after completing a thesis she began 30 years ago.
Bourlier was awarded the mark of “high distinction” for her thesis on immigrant workers after successfully defending it before a jury at the University of Franche-Comté in the eastern French city of Besançon.
‘It took a bit of time to write because I took breaks,’ she said. “I did the best that I could, I think the jury was satisfied.”
Her thesis, which was entitled ‘Immigrant workers in Besançon in the second half of the 20th century’, drew directly on her experience of working as a teacher in literacy programmes for immigrants in the area.
She decided to pursue a doctorate after retiring in 1983. Although PhD candidates in France generally complete their thesis in three years, Bourlier was “an extremely atypical” student, according to her professor, Serge Ormaux.
“She took care of welcoming and teaching literacy to Besançon’s immigrant populations for 20-25 years,” he said. ‘She is probably the only person who knew all the aspects in such detail and who was able to weave everything together. She backed it up with statistical analyses.’
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, March 16, 2016)