SYDNEY - A 97-year-old retired Australian dentist was to receive his masters degree in clinical science on Friday in what Southern Cross University said could make him the world’s oldest new graduate.

Allan Stewart, born on March 7, 1915, is already the holder of the Guinness World Records title for being the oldest graduate after completing a law degree in 2006 at the age of 91.

It was not immediately clear whether anyone older had graduated since.

“I think I can hang up my mortar board and academic robes after this one — although I said that after my last degree and then I got bored,” said Stewart, from Port Stephens, north of Sydney, ahead of his graduation ceremony. “I have so much time on my hands these days and I like to keep mentally active.”

The clinical science masters is the fourth degree for the great-grandfather, who began his university studies in the 1930s with a degree in dentistry.

After a long career as a dentist, during which time he became a Doctor of Dental Surgery on completion of his second degree, Stewart decided in his eighties to study law to help keep his mind active.

“As I approached the age of 90 I realised that time was of the essence and I had better get a wriggle on in case I didn’t make my graduation,” he said.

“So I attended extra summer schools and managed to complete the six-year course in four-and-a-half years, graduating in 2006. Turns out I needn’t have rushed.” Stewart, who walks daily and meditates regularly, keeps his mind alert by reading medical textbooks and crime novels and playing bridge. He enrolled in his latest course in 2009 and said while it had been a “tremendous challenge” he had enjoyed it immensely and would strongly encourage any older people to return to study.

“People should never use the excuse that ‘I am too old to study’ or ‘I have left my run too late’,” he said. “It is never too late to expand your mind, make new friends and challenge yourself to achieve something worthwhile.”

Stewart, who had six children and now has 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, is modest about his achievements.

“Oh, it’s nothing really, I have just been blessed with good genes,” he said.