Former University of Bristol student returns to Uni to study PhD aged 60


By Joe Green, Investigations Editor

University of Bristol alumnus and marriage advocate Harry Benson is returning to the University at the age of 60 study a PhD with the School of Policy Studies.

After completing a psychology degree at Bristol, Harry has gone on to run his own relationship charity in the city, with the Bristol Community Family Trust helping 7,000 people across 700 courses before closing down in 2013.

Since then, Harry has been research director at the Marriage Foundation, a charity that advocates for healthy marriages.

The return to education is the next step in a career that has also seen him fly helicopters for the Navy and work as a banker in Hong Kong and Bangkok.

Having initially become interested in marriage after his own relationship with wife Katie reached breaking point while working in Asia, Harry’s move back to the West Country has seen him spend his working life helping others build and maintain healthy marriages.

‘When I was working as a banker I never once thought I’d end up here, my life is so radically different now,’ Harry said. ‘My life really is a vocation; a calling that I can’t escape from.

‘I know my subject and I love my subject very much. Hopefully this PhD will strengthen and deepen the platform I have created.

‘There are lots of other Harry and Kates who need not get into the mess we got into.’

Regarding his motivation for returning to University at this stage in his life, the father-of-six declared that ‘life begins at 60,’ and that ‘our last child left home this year and I thought “I’m still hungry”.’

‘There’s a whole psychology around how you can achieve reliable love. Most people want a love that lasts and that’s what I have dedicated my life to.

‘Academia has virtually ignored the field of marriage. Which sounds extraordinary but there is so little research in the UK – I think I can do some really ground-breaking stuff.’

Having started his course in recent weeks, Harry intends to publish several papers on marriage over the course of his PhD that will achieve ‘legacy and impact.’

‘This programme will take me three years and then I’ve got a good ten years in the policy world – or possibly in the academic world, I don’t know yet where this will take me.

‘We’ll find out after three years whether it helped my own marriage – or you’ll have to ask my wife!’

Featured Image: University of Bristol

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