U3a "Objects and Principles"
Objects and Principles
WHAT IS A UNIVERSITY OF THE THIRD AGE?
A University of the Third Age is a learning co-operative of older people which enables members to share many
educational, creative and leisure activities. Activities are organised mainly in small groups that meet regularly,
often in each other’s homes. Members, through sharing their knowledge, skills and experience, learn from each
Although all local U3As remain operationally independent, they are members of The Third Age Trust. As such
they agree to abide by the Principles of the U3A Movement, a document produced by The Third Age Trust in
2014, based on the original Objects and Principles written by Peter Laslett in 1981.
The Trust is a national, umbrella body (a registered charity and limited company) which represents all U3As in
the UK at national and international level. It is run by a National Executive Committee democratically elected
from the membership and offers a range of services to support and advise local U3As.
The U3A movement is growing all the time; approximately 40 new U3As are started every year. They pursue an
amazing range of topics; some academic, some practical, some recreational. Most local U3As offer a
combination of opportunities to study, create, socialise, and contribute greatly to members’ overall health and
U3A is the only national education organisation in the UK run entirely by its own members.
THE PRINCIPLES OF THE U3A MOVEMENT
The U3A Movement is non-religious and non-political and has three main principles:
The Third Age Principle
a. Membership of a U3A is open to all in their third age, which is defined not by a particular age but by a
period in life in which full time employment has ceased.
b. Members promote the values of lifelong learning and the positive attributes of belonging to a U3A.
c. Members should do all they can to ensure that people wanting to join a U3A can do so.
The Self-help Learning Principle
a. Members form interest groups covering as wide a range of topics and activities as they desire; by the
members, for the members.
b. No qualifications are sought or offered. Learning is for its own sake, with enjoyment being the prime
motive, not qualifications or awards.
c. There is no distinction between the learners and the teachers; they are all U3A members.
The Mutual Aid Principle
a. Each U3A is a mutual aid organisation, operationally independent but a member of The Third Age Trust,
which requires adherence to the guiding principles of the U3A Movement.
b. No payments are made to members for services rendered to any U3A.
c. Each U3A is self-funded with membership subscriptions and costs kept as low as possible.
d. Outside financial assistance should only be sought if it does not imperil the integrity of the U3A
THE ORIGINAL OBJECTS AND PRINCIPLES
The word university in the name of the institution shall be used in its original sense, meaning a corporation of
persons devoted to a particular activity, not necessarily intellectual. It shall not be taken to denote all the
associations which have grown up around the world, especially in the last century and in England. Other
academic titles shall be avoided as far as possible.
Objects and Principles
Accessed 28/01/16 2 THE U3A MOVEMENT
First: to educate British society at large in the facts of its present age constitution and of its permanent situation
in respect of ageing. One of the first of the ‘old’ societies, we find ourselves in a position which is bound to be
shared with all developed societies and finally with the whole world’s population.
Second: to make those in their later years in Britain aware of their intellectual, cultural and aesthetic
potentialities, and of their value to themselves and to their society. To assail the dogma of intellectual decline
Third: to provide from amongst the retired, the resources for the development and intensification of their
intellectual, cultural and aesthetic lives. In this way to help them to make effective and satisfying use of their
freedom from work at the office, shop or factory. To devise methods of doing this which can be afforded in
Fourth: to create an institution for these purposes where there is no distinction between the class of those who
teach and those who learn, where the activity is voluntary, freely offered by the members of the university to
other members and to other people.
Fifth: so to organise this institution that learning is pursued, skills acquired and interests are developed for
themselves alone with no reference to qualifications, awards or personal advancement.
Sixth: to mobilise members of the university so as to help the very large number of elderly persons in Britain
standing in need of educational stimulation but who have no wish to engage in university studies.
Seventh: to undertake research on the process of ageing in society and especially on the position of the elderly
in Britain and the means of its improvement.
Eighth: to encourage the establishment of similar institutions in every part of the country where conditions are
suitable, and to collaborate with them.
1. The university shall consist of a body of persons who undertake to learn and to help others learn. Those
who teach shall also learn and those who learn shall also teach.
2. Joining the university shall be a question of personal choice. No qualifications shall be required, and no
judgement made by the university between applicants.
3. Everyone joining the university shall pay for its upkeep and for instruction received. These payments shall
be the sustaining revenue of the institution apart from the gifts by foundations. No support from the funds
of local or central governments shall be expected or sought.
4. No salary, fee or financial reward shall be paid to any member of the university for teaching other members,
counselling them, or helping them in any way.
5. All members of the university shall be expected to offer voluntary service to it and to its activities in relation
to society at large, especially to the elderly.
6. Members shall be prepared to help organise assistance in the way of voluntary manpower for educational,
cultural and other institutions which may be able to use such manpower, and which under present
conditions are prevented from fulfilling their functions as they would like. Examples are art galleries,
museums and libraries.
7. The undertaking of all members to teach as well as to learn may be fulfilled in the following ways other than
instruction: counselling other members; taking the university’s offerings into the homes of the housebound,
the bedridden, those in retirement institutions or in hospitals; helping the effort to provide intellectual
stimulus for the mass of the elderly in Britain; taking part in any other offer of manpower made by the
university and educational or cultural institutions which stand in need of it.
8. The university itself shall not engage in the activity of judging between its members. There shall be no
examination system and no degrees, diplomas or certificates shall be awarded. Nevertheless, classes within
Objects and Principles
Accessed 28/01/16 3 THE U3A MOVEMENT