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What is a U3A?


A University of the Third Age provides opportunities during the day time for education and recreation for mature people no longer in full time employment.

WHY UNIVERSITY?  The original meaning of the word is a coming together. That is precisely what we do.  We come together in groups to learn, to follow our hobbies and interests for general companionship.

WHY THIRD AGE?  The Third Age is the age of retirement (or semi-retirement).  The First Age is the time of education and training for the Second Age - working life and bringing up children.  In the Third Age, by keeping our minds and bodies alert, we can enrich our lives and slow the ageing process.   There are now over 890 U3A's in this country with about 300,000 members.

BLACKBOURNE U3A, like all others is a self-help organisation with no upper or lower age limits.  The annual subscription is £10 which entitles members to attend the monthly lectures and to receive the newsletter.   Members can also enrol in study groups and participate in educational visits for which charges to meet the costs will be made.

INTEREST GROUPS meet weekly, fortnightly or monthly, often in members' homes. The subjects at present available are shown here but additional groups may be formed during the year in response to demand, if leaders offer their services. Leading a study group can be very rewarding - U3A group leaders will testify to the enjoyment and satisfaction which comes from sharing their skills and knowledge with others.

INFORMATION: Updated details of U3A activities are available at monthly lecture meetings and are also in the Newsletter issued to all members several times during the year.


National U3A Website   U3A Mission Statement   New BU3A Member Information

“The U3A Story" by Francis Beckett, price £1


First published in November 2009, this revised and up-dated edition (May 2014) is a 52-page small glossy paperback booklet with numerous photos, written by author & journalist Francis Beckett, who had been part-time editor of U3A's national magazine during the mid-1990s. It gives a chronological and interesting account of all aspects of the U3A's foundation and management (sometimes problematic!) from 1981 to present day.

As we'd understand it today, the U3A started in July 1981 when a short item was aired on the BBC's Radio 4 programme "You & Yours", featuring an interview with Eric Midwinter, director of The Centre for Policy on Ageing, which brought an avalanche of 400 letters to him. This was probably the first most people outside academia had heard of the U3A, and it was suddenly obvious that this was "an idea whose time had come".

The booklet goes on to explain the four main reasons for this, how things developed using (but differing from) the French model, charting some fascinating details of the ups and downs along the way, and concluding with its "expansion in a time of austerity" to the present-day 322 UK U3As with over 926,000 members, and counting.

As a fairly new U3A member, I found this booklet most interesting and enlightening and, for the princely sum of £1, would think it a recommended "good read" to both new and long-standing members alike. If any Blackbourne U3A member would like to buy a copy, please let me know and I can order some from the National Office, to be sold at future lecture meetings.

Stella Chamberlin, 01359-242601

U3A Online

U3A Online courses are short courses specially designed for older people and available through a partnership between Third Age Trust (the UK national U3A organisation) and the U3A Online Inc.(based in Australia).  

Many of the courses are untutored and can be taken at your own pace, so that you can return to them when it suits you. Or if you want a more structured timetable with personal input to a tutor, why not opt for a Tutored Course.  Click here to see the type of courses available.

The Virtual U3A (vU3a), which went live in January 2009, is an online-only U3A, affiliated to the Third Age Trust. One of its principal aims is to provide the U3A experience for those who are rendered isolated in some way by circumstances or geography and unable to play a full part in a terrestrial U3A. More information is available on the public website www.vu3a.org where one can also apply for membership. Why not pay it a visit? And if you know of anyone who might benefit, please pass the information on.