u3a stands for University of the Third Age. It is a university in the original sense of the word:- “a collective of people devoted to learning”. The third age is a time of creativity and fulfilment for people who are retired or semi-retired.
It was the French who first thought of L’Université de Troisième Âge in 1972 and it was an immediate success. They linked their organisation to actual universities. However, a group of people in Cambridge who began to develop the French idea, thought it too restricting to limit membership to those living near a university. It was for this reason that the idea of self-help groups was born and it is this model that is followed by all UK u3a’s.
Anyone in their third age can join a u3a – no qualifications are needed and no qualifications are gained. It is merely an approach to lifelong learning and provides an opportunity to do things you have never tried before. All you need is interest and enthusiasm and a desire to share your knowledge or expertise with other like-minded people. Each u3a is a democratic, self funded, self managed organisation that exists to provide education and leisure facilities for people no longer in full time employment.