91-year-old French woman gets PhD after 30-year thesis

BESANÇON, France (AFP) - A woman aged 91 has become one of the oldest women in France to gain a doctorate after she completed a thesis that she had begun three decades earlier.

Ms Colette Bourlier was awarded the mark of "high distinction" for her work, which she successfully defended on Tuesday (March 15) before a jury of the University of Franche-Comte in Besancon, eastern France.

"It took a bit of time to write because I took breaks," she said, explaining the exceptional time for her opus.

The thesis was entitled "Immigrant workers in Besancon in the second half of the 20th century." It drew on her own experience as a teacher in literacy programmes for immigrants in the eastern French city.

Ms Bourlier became interested in a PhD after she retired in 1983. Normally, a PhD in France is written in three years, but she was "an extremely atypical" student, said her professor Serge Ormaux.

"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."