The U3A Movement
U3A stands for the University of the Third Age, which is a self-help organisation for people no longer in full time employment providing educational, creative and leisure opportunities in a friendly environment. It consists of local U3As all over the UK, which are charities in their own right and are run entirely by volunteers. Local U3As are learning cooperatives which draw upon the knowledge, experience and skills of their own members to organise and provide interest groups in accordance with the wishes of the membership. The teachers learn and the learners teach. Between them U3As offer the chance to study over 300 different subjects in such fields as art, languages, music, history, life sciences, philosophy, computing, crafts, photography and walking. A typical U3A has about 250 members but could be as small as 12 and as large as 2000.
The U3A approach to learning is – learning for pleasure. There is no accreditation or validation and there are no assessments or qualifications to be gained.
Aims and Guiding Principles
A University of the Third Age is a learning co-operative of older people, which enables members to share many educational, creative and leisure activities. Activities are organised mainly in small groups that meet regularly, often in each other’s homes. Members, through sharing their knowledge, skills and experience, learn from each other.
Although all local U3As remain operationally independent, they are members of The Third Age Trust. As such they must abide by both the original Objects and Principles written by Peter Laslett in 1981 and the Principles of the U3A Movement (2014).
The Trust is a national, umbrella body (a registered charity and limited company) which represents all U3As in the UK at national and international level. It is run by a National Executive Committee democratically elected from the membership and offers a range of services, to support and advise local U3As.
The U3A movement is growing all the time; approximately 50 new U3As are started every year. They pursue an amazing range of topics; some academic, some practical and others recreational. Most local U3As offer a combination of opportunities to study, create, socialise, and contribute greatly to members’ overall health and wellbeing.
Original Objects and Principles
by Peter Laslett
[Please note: these Objects & Principles were originally published in September 1981 and slightly amended in 1984 for national circulation. They were generally accepted by the Founding Committee of the University of the Third Age but have never been taken as hard and fast rules. These are the amended version.]