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 over 1000 local groups in the UK. Nationally, around 420,000 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 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, no certificates and no campus.

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

Normally, 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 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 early 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.

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.


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.

Who and What and How

At the fortnightly general meeting 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 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 U3A, and is still a frequent speaker for us on a variety of topics.

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 several 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.