Introduction to the University of the Third Age
The University of the Third Age was originally set up for people in retirement or those about to retire.
In more recent years, Society has changed and there are more people younger than State retirement age who are no longer in full time employment. Therefore, U3A Roseland and District welcomes members of ANY age who are no longer in full time employment and who have the desire to develop their personal interests and skills within a socially active group of like-minded people.
In its early days, The University of the Third Age was referred to as Britain’s ‘newest and strangest’ university. Even today, when it has been in existence since 1982, people still wonder whether it should actually be called a ‘university’. But those people involved in its beginnings know that we are using the term as it was originally intended – as a group of people coming together to share their love of learning. As fellowship in learning and enjoyment are essential features, no qualifications are required.
The concept of a university for people in the ‘third age’ – a term which means ‘no longer in full-time, gainful employment’, and not a specific, numerical age – began in France in 1972. The ‘French model’, as we have come to call it, was and is quite different from the British one. In France, and many other European countries, U3As are taught by working academics – rather like our extra-mural departments. But in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, U3As are self-help endeavours. They consist of groups of people who come together to share their knowledge, skills and experience in an informal association of their own design.
Membership of a University of the Third Age is open to all men and women irrespective of race, religion, or politics. This is enshrined in the Aims and Guiding Principles and recently restated in the Aims and Guiding Principles.
U3As vary in size from just a few to over 2,000 and obviously the range of activities is very different from U3A to U3A. Membership fees vary with most members paying between £15 and £40 per year, often additional entry into every meeting. Each U3A has its own subscription policy and its own methods of fund-raising. It is not possible to identify what we might refer to as a typical programme.
But if you look at the range of topics pursued across the country you see an amazing breadth of experience and interest. There are science and technology studies, every kind of history and practical activities too. Add to that social and cultural activities, not forgetting travel – at home and abroad – and you start to get a picture.
What makes U3A unique is the fact that everything is done by its members. The national organisation, The Third Age Trust, which is run by a democratically elected committee of members, with help from a small staff, supports the development of new U3As, but the initiative must come from members themselves. Once the group is up and running, it is up to its members to plan and implement their programme, raise funds, find premises as and when required and in short, do everything necessary to make the group grow and flourish.
There are many links between groups too, such as taking part in Regional Meetings and Conferences. The national in-house magazine, U3A News, is available to every member and keeps him or her in touch with national, international and local developments. In U3A Roseland and District this is collected at meetings.
Sources, an educational bulletin, brought into being by a grant from the National Lottery Charities Board, goes to all members who request it and will disseminate knowledge, information and ideas to help form and maintain interest groups. There are many subject networks that link people with particular interests, such as Shakespeare, patchwork, knitting and crochet, mixed crafts, cooking, The Tudor Age, English history, local history, digital imaging, monthly meetings – with more to follow – all free of charge to members. There is also a luncheon club where members enjoy good food and chat together.
The University of the Third Age in the UK is a member of the International Association of U3As (IAUTA). Many local groups arrange exchanges with their European counterparts.
Membership Secretary Margaret Goudge 01726 – 65794