U3A AT 40

The first u3a was founded in the UK in 1982 and, for our newer members, a bit of history.

Ten years previously, in France, Toulouse University started 'Universite du Troisieme Age' where the professors led groups for local retired people. This spread across France to other Universities and the same formula was then adopted in several other European countries.

In 1981 a university academic in Cambridge, Peter Laslett, organised a conference to discuss the possibility of bringing the ‘University of the Third Age’ to Britain. Their decision was that the UK version would be different, acknowledging that retired people have a lifetime of experience, skills and knowledge. Therefore there would be no formal teachers but Group leaders would be there to facilitate the teaching and learning process. Each u3a would be different depending on the interests and abilities of the members, and each would be an autonomous entity, self-financing and self-managing. Importantly it was to be run by the members for its members.

This formula has worked, as of today there are over 1000 groups in the UK with more than 430,000 members, of whom nearly 500 can be found in Sidmouth.