The U3A’s origins are in France in 1972 because, unlike the UK at that time, there were no educational facilities available for retired people. The French idea was to provide some form of education for their older generations whereby local retired people could negotiate with the local university for the use of their facilities and expertise, be taught by university staff and have the use of most other university facilities.
In 1979 this idea was taken up in the UK by a group of leading educationalists. It was to have been on the French style but it soon became obvious that in the UK “Third Agers” were perfectly capable of looking after themselves. In 1982 an experimental school was set up attended by a group of interested people and as a result several U3As were launched and the Third Age Trust as a charity followed in 1983.
The “Third Age Trust” is the national representative body for the U3A movement in the UK (Reg Charity No 288007) and provides a whole range of support services to the U3As. For more information go to www.u3a.org.uk.
U3A is an international organization and within the UK there are about 700 groups and some 200,000 members.
U3As, like West Wilts U3A, are autonomous, democratic, self-funded, self-managed organizations that exist to provide day-time education and leisure activities for retired men and women at minimal cost. They draw upon the knowledge, experience and skills of their members to organize study and activity groups in accordance with the wishes of the membership. Between them U3As offer over 300 subjects in such diverse fields as;- art, foreign languages, music, history, life sciences, literature, poetry, theatre-going, philosophy, world faiths, crafts, field studies, archaeology, bird watching and computing. If sufficient people are interested in a topic, then a new group can be started.