U3A stands for University of the Third Age. It has been formed primarily for the benefit of retired and semi-retired folk. The First Age is childhood up to the end of formal education. The Second Age is middle age, bringing up families and following a career. The Third Age is retirement.

Harpenden U3A is one of 1000 local groups in the UK. Nationally, around 500,000 people are in the membership. U3A has been in existence in this country since 1982. We in Harpenden were one of the first U3As to form.

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 now have quite large memberships and a very substantial range of activities; others, like ours, which serves a smaller community, have remained on a more modest scale. We now have around 180 members. Hertfordshire seems a good area for U3As - 24 or so now flourish around the county. Nationally, there is a small central organisation (the Third Age Trust) offering information and co-ordination, and an annual conference.

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 and talents.

The pattern of the year

Fortnightly general meetings, usually with a speaker, start in September and run until July, falling into three 'Terms' with recesses around Christmas and Easter. An A.G.M. is held early in October. The general meetings run alongside a range of 'interest group meetings' (click on Groups)


A simple Newsletter/Programme comes out each term - See link on the Events page. Contributions will be welcomed from you: places to go, things to read, group activities, things we ought to be aware of.....all-sorts.

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.

Who and What and How

At the fortnightly general meeting the officers should be identifiable, but don't hesitate to ask who is who. We have a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, Programme Secretary, Membership Secretary, Group Coordinator, Website Manager and Outings Secretary. 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 U.K. 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 group, and is still a frequent speaker for us on a variety of topics.

The 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.

National U3A Activities

A number of services and activities organised nationally are available to any member of a local U3A. You will find out about them in the Quarterly newspaper 'Third Age News' published by the Third Age Trust, and newsletters and support information are also available nationally for several special interests.

As the U3A movement in this country develops further, as it is obviously doing, these opportunities may well increase.

Harpenden U3A is registered as a Charity, No. 1035419.