80-year-old graduates with a PhD from University of Johannesburg

An 80-year-old Robert Jeffrey is proof that one is never too old to get an education.

Jeffrey graduated with a PhD in Engineering Management from the University of Johannesburg’s Kingsway campus on Thursday.

He said he chose the university for his doctoral studies as the institution allowed him the tools to work on a project that could lead to societal impact. 

The 80-year-old, who was accompanied by his family, said he was both nervous and excited at the same time. He received a standing ovation from the audience as he received his doctoral degree. 

The grandfather of eight, who is wheelchair-bound, added that he wanted to embark on a project that would give him purpose.

“It is necessary to have a purpose and I wanted a subject that would challenge me and would give a positive result for all South Africans, especially the unemployed and poor,” said Jeffrey. 

“I am extremely proud and satisfied with the objectives I set to get this PhD. Education is about developing the country and benefiting, through economic growth, the poor and unemployed.

“A sound education is the most important benefit a parent can give their child.”

Jeffrey’s thesis is an independent economic analysis of the electricity generation industry in South Africa and an assessment of the best course of action that the country can take to develop electricity generation resources.

In the thesis, which took four years to complete, Jeffrey considered the impact of the reliability of power supply – be it fossil fuel or renewable – on the development of the country’s economy. 

His thesis supervisor, professor Andre Nel, said Jeffrey was a pleasure to work with, even dedicating himself through the Covid-19 period with ill-health. 

“He worked hard on the topic and put an amazing amount of effort into the thesis. It addresses the very real problem of balancing the cost and availability of power from different sources given their differing probability of delivery.”

For the past seven years, Jeffrey has served as an independent energy and economic consultant.

He has worked as a managing director and financial director of major companies, an economic analyst and advisor to SARB [SA Reserve Bank], worked in construction and energy evaluation and on mergers, acquisitions, and capital projects in a variety of industries.

Jeffrey noted that he plans to continue studying the progress in energy in the country while also focusing on his photography.

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