u3a is for people no longer in full-time work. u3a has been in existence in this country since 1982 and we in Harpenden were one of the first u3as to form. We are now one of over 1000 u3as in the UK with together around 420,000 members.
u3a is a unique organisation. Each local u3a is autonomous, devising its own pattern of meetings and interest groups and developing in its own way. Some local u3as have quite large memberships and a substantial range of activities; others, like ours, which serves a smaller community, have remained on a more modest scale. We have around 150 members.
One of the principles of u3a in the UK is that we should be a self-help learning organisation. Activities and special interest groups arise from the interests and needs of members and, as far as possible, are self-tutoring, drawing upon their own members' expertise, talents and enthusiasms. u3a is informal and cooperative. There is no curriculum, no entry qualifications, no examinations and no certificates. To see the u3a principles in full, click on Principles of the u3a. To see our constitution, click on Constitution.
The pattern of the year
Activities fall into three Terms with recesses around Christmas, Easter and the Summer holidays. However new members can join at any time.
Our fortnightly general meetings, usually with a speaker, run alongside a range of interest group meetings. click on 'Groups' above for more information on our groups. (The Trust Hall, where we normally hold our general meetings, has recently had a new sound system and a hearing loop system installed to make it easier for all attendees to hear the proceedings.)
An AGM is held in October. An annual subscription is payable in Autumn (or a smaller amount per term). Visitors can enter free for two meetings, after which we hope they will join us.
Who and What and How
At normal fortnightly general meetings the officers are identifiable, but don't hesitate to ask who is who. We have a Chairman, a Vice-Chairman, a Secretary, a Treasurer, a Programme Secretary, a Membership Secretary, a Groups Coordinator and an IT Manager. To see who we are, click on Committee.
Our honorary President is Dr. Eric Midwinter, OBE. He was one of the originators of the idea of a University of the Third Age in the UK. He is an historian, educationalist and Director of the Centre for Policy on Aging for several years. He lives in Harpenden. He helped to start our u3a, and is still a frequent speaker for us on a variety of topics.
Programme and Newsletter
We issue a Programme for each term. These give dates and topics for our general meetings. See the Events page. We also regularly issue a Newsletter giving more details about our activities, a note from the Chairman and other contributions from members. Further contributions and ideas from you will be welcomed: places to go, things to read, group activities, things we ought to be aware of.....all-sorts.
During the Coronavirus lock-down with no face-to-face meetings, we are keeping members in touch by sending out every few weeks e-letters/letters compiled from members' contributions. Starting with the AGM on 22nd Oct. we are now running some meetings online via Zoom.
See the 'Groups' page for information about our Groups. There is a list of Groups and Group convenors, a timetable for Group meetings and links to Group pages, each of which has more information about the Group and its activities. There is also a list of new groups we are considering starting up.
Your Own Interests and Ideas
If you have an idea for a group activity, or a visit, mention it to a committee member. We can then publicize the idea and find out who else might be interested. Your suggestions for speakers will also be welcome.
If you yourself could give a talk on an interesting topic, mention it to the Secretary or Chairman. It doesn't have to be a full length talk - we have afternoons of shorter talks. High expertise is not vital - help is available if you need it in preparing or delivering.
National u3a Activities
There is a small National organisation (TAT: the Third Age Trust) offering information and co-ordination, and an annual conference. A number of services and activities organised nationally are available to any member of a local u3a. Newsletters and support information for some special interests are also available. You can find out what is available in their Magazine 'Third Age Matters' or by Clicking on 'U3A' above to go to their Website.
As the u3a movement in this country develops further, these opportunities may well increase.
Harpenden u3a is registered as a Charity, No. 1035419.