Founded in 1981, the UK U3A movement (based loosely on the French model) aims to encourage groups of people in their third age to come together and continue their enjoyment of learning in subjects of interest to them.
From the start, the guiding principles were to promote lifelong learning through self-help interest groups covering a wide range of topics and activities as chosen by their members.
The 'third age' is defined by a time in your life (not necessarily chronological) where you have the opportunity to undertake learning for its own sake. There is no minimum age, but a focus on people who are no longer in full-time employment or raising a family.
Our founders envisaged a collaborative approach with peers learning from each other. The U3A movement was to be self-funded, with members not working towards qualifications but learning purely for pleasure. There would be no distinction between the learners and the teachers – everyone could take a turn at being both if they wished.
From its beginnings, the movement grew very quickly and by the early 1990s, a U3A was opening every fortnight. U3As grew in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and in 2008 membership was increasing by 11% every year. 2010 saw our membership hitting the quarter million mark.
At the end of 2016 the U3A movement reached the milestone of 1,000 U3As celebrated by a conference with speakers including Eric Midwinter – one of the founders of the U3A movement.
Today, our movement includes over 439,000 U3A members in more than 1,000 U3As and is continuing to grow every day