What Is U3A?

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University of the Third Age (U3A) – What It Means 

U3A stands for the University of the Third Age. Our First Age is childhood. Our Second Age is the period of raising a family, having a career and all the responsibilities that come with it. The Third Age can be the best years of our lives, being active in retirement, learning new things, meeting people with similar interests, sharing our knowledge.

University is a loose term – there are no academic requirements for membership and no exams, just opportunities to keep learning. Learning could be either informal through U3A classes or groups, or more formalised through attending lectures at James Cook University.

U3A is a worldwide self-help organisation promoting learning for personal enjoyment and wellbeing. New and interesting learning keeps the brain active, whilst providing opportunities to do interesting things. U3A is making a very substantial contribution to society by helping its members to remain healthy and active for longer.

Whatever your interests, U3A has a course or group for you. Our volunteer tutors and group leaders offer a variety of courses and social events that is bound to spark your interest.

Our mission is to create a culture to support and encourage members to improve their well-being through exercising their minds and bodies and to see U3A as an integral part of their life helping to achieve personal goals and ambitions.

Our Beliefs

    • To create lifelong learning which contributes to a good quality of life.
    • To promote The Third Age as a special period of life with opportunity for continued learning.
    • To promote an active mind and body which moderates the aging process and maximizes the quality and duration of life.
    • To share knowledge which in turn expands capacity.
    • To listen respectfully to others and learn from them.
    • To volunteer our time, knowledge and skills which enhances well-being, as well as the well-being and joy of others.
    • To enable learning in the company of others which develops friendships.
    • To working together as focused teams which creates a vibrant and attractive organisation.

Our Members

U3A membership is not related to a specific age but to a period in one’s life (Third Age) after the second age of full-time employment and parental responsibility. Anybody in their third age can join U3A and this includes people who are working part-time. There is no lower age but like-minded people seek to connect with each other, find stimulating retirement activities, learn new hobbies or develop old ones.  They make new friends and most importantly, enjoy life to the full.  The only restriction to the curriculum is the expertise available within the community.

Each U3A is a community organisation that promotes healthy ageing by sharing educational, creative, leisure activities provided by their own members.  We ask for no qualifications for membership and we award no degrees or diplomas.

How and When the U3A Movement Began

U3A is a worldwide organisation. It began in France in 1968, when legislation was passed that required universities to offer more community education. In 1973 a highly rated gerontology course was provided by Toulouse University for local retired people, a course that was extremely successful and which led to the formation of what was to be the first U3A. This organisation was open to anyone past retirement age; no qualifications or examinations were required and fees were kept to a minimum.  The concept quickly spread throughout France and then Belgium, Switzerland, Poland, Italy, Spain and across the Atlantic.  The French model centres around universities, relying heavily on their facilities and tuition, although there are no exams and costs are kept to a minimum.

The first Australian U3A was established in Melbourne in 1984 and quickly caught on in other communities in Australia. In Queensland the first U3As to be formed were Sunshine Coast and Brisbane in 1986.

How U3A Operates 

Each U3A (and there are many U3A groups in each state of Australia) is an autonomous association whose members are, in the main, retired or at least semi-retired, and managed by the members themselves. The only restriction to the curriculum is the expertise available within the community.

A Management Committee democratically elected from among members oversees our group. Administration and office functions are performed by members on a voluntary basis.  Each U3A is a community organisation that promotes healthy ageing by sharing educational, creative, and leisure activities provided by their own members.  No qualifications for membership are required.

U3A offers a wide variety of educational courses and classes, including social get-togethers, designed to meet the needs of people who have completed their working lives (the Third Age or period of active retirement) who wish to continue to learn and broaden their horizons.  The first age in life refers to childhood and formal education, the second age is your working life.  Members enjoy a social life and make friends with others, sharing their expertise and interest, while having access to a range of healthy, fun-loving activities to exercise the body and the mind.

Course leaders/tutors are as far as possible drawn from members, although community (non-U3A) volunteers may sometimes be willing to conduct short courses or a one-off presentation. In the spirit of sharing, there is no distinction between teacher and taught – the leader of one course may well be a student in another.  Course leaders (member or non-member) do not receive payment for their services. The members themselves are the valuable resource from which to draw knowledge and skills and are encouraged by other members to offer their skills for tutoring. This method continues to be highly successful.

For governance matters, please see our Model Rules and By-Laws.