What is U3A?
- "University of the Third Age"
- A volunteer learning organisation for mature adults
- "Third Age" - refers to the age of active retirement. The "First Age" is childhood, the "Second Age" the time of employment and parental responsibility.
- "University" - used in the original sense of a community of scholars sharing and learning together.
- Each group is autonomous but the movement is worldwide.
- Encouraged by local and state governments.
- Has no entry criteria, or examinations or qualification as a result of study.
The first "University of the Third Age" was founded in Toulouse, France, in 1972. These were courses attached to formal Universities designed especially for older people to improve their quality of life. The concept of learning especially for mature aged people rapidly spread to other countries.
A group at Cambridge University introduced the concept into Great Britain in 1981 but it quickly evolved into one where all U3A members were encouraged to participate equally, either by teaching, learning or assisting with planning and administration. This self-help approach reduced the need for dependence on outside resources.
The concept was introduced into Australia in 1984 by a group of 4 people working professionally in adult education or organisations concerned with the welfare of the aged. After some public meetings the Melbourne U3A began with support from the Council for Adult Education at their Flinders Street headquarters.
In Australian U3A's, the available courses and how they are taught is up to the members. Offered courses have been devised by members and are taught by unpaid tutors so that fees are kept to a minimum.
U3A's provide mental and physical stimulation, enlarge personal horizons, knowledge and skills, and provide an opportunity to make and enjoy being with friends.