HISTORY of the U3A
U3A stands for the UNIVERSITY OF THE THIRD AGE, an organisation providing educational, leisure and recreational opportunities for people no longer in full time gainful employment.
The U3A began in France where the Université de Troisième Age was founded by Toulouse University in 1972. They introduced short courses for retired students and early developments were dependant upon university sponsorship.
By contrast, due to the long history of Adult Education here in the UK, it was decided that the British U3As would be more independent of the academic world, drawing instead on the wealth of knowledge and expertise available within the membership.
This more informal ‘shared learning’ model has now been adopted in many other countries. The original French name has been retained but we use the word university’ in its original sense ie ‘a co-operative of people devoted to a particular activity’. No academic qualifications are required and none are awarded.
In the UK, where the U3A movement began in March 1982, there are now over 1000 U3As with approximately 400,000 enthusiastic members. The average U3A is 300 strong, with the smallest at 12 members and the largest 3000.
Why the Third Age? The First Age is education, the Second Age is career and family, the Third Age is retirement and the Fourth Age is dependency. At present. some 20% of the UK population belongs to the Third Age and for many this may be the longest and most stable phase of their lives. It can also be a time of fulfilment and personal development.
The Third Age Trust is the national umbrella organisation for UK U3As and operates through a National Executive Committee to support the network of affiliated U3As throughout the country. It encourages the formation of new U3As, publishes the ‘Third Age’ news magazine and organises Conferences and Summer Schools at various venues in the UK.
All U3As are fully autonomous with members organising their own activities and making their own decisions through their elected representatives. They are self financing on a non-profit basis with no political or religious allegiance and develop according to the needs and resources of the area.
Members are encouraged to contribute their skills, knowledge and experience to shared learning. They may be a learner in one group and an organiser (or tutor) of another. They may have expertise, from their working lives or because of an interesting hobby, which they are willing to share with others.
U3A activities cover practical skills, social activities, physical activities and leisure pursuits as well as academic subjects.
For additional information please visit www.u3a.org.uk