Welcome to the U3A

U3A was founded in 1981 by three friends; Eric Midwinter - a distinguished educator; Peter Lazlett - a sociologist and Michael Young who set up many worthwhile projects in his lifetime including the Open University.

At the time all three were embarking on the third age of their lives.  France had already set up its Université due Troisim0065 Age, so Peter Lazlett made a visit and on his return pronounced the organisation admirable in its way, but too elitist and narrow.  Second Agers, mainly men, were deciding what Third Agers should learn.

The three friends knew that older people were capable of teaching in informal and friendly situations and learning from each other. Objectors pointed out the number of LEA and WEA classes that were available, but the three academics held out for their new ideas of self-help learning. They put their reputations on the line and set up the first U3A in Cambridge.

Apart from the underlying philosophy of mutual help, two things influenced the founding of the U3A - the rise in the elderly section of the population as the nation’s health improved and the wish to provide for the educational, cultural and social needs of this section.

There are now 771 U3As comprising 248,666 members in the UK. Membership is open to anyone who is retired or semi-retired. While each U3A is an autonomous unit responsible for organising its own programme and its own funding, the Third Age Trust provides local U3As with administrative and educational resources and support.

As the structure comes from the members themselves, a U3A member may be a student in a group one day and a leader or tutor of another the next. No qualifications are required and no awards are given. A U3A motto could be "Those who teach shall also learn and those who learn shall also teach”.