University of the Third Age
U3A is an international organisation based on a remarkable idea: that older people can draw on the knowledge and interests of a lifetime to provide stimulating learning and activities for each other.
University in the U3A title is used in the broad sense of a community of people coming together to learn from each other. There are no formal entry requirements, no examinations and no awards. The tutors are all volunteers, using their trade, business or professional expertise; others are happy to share a life-long hobby or interest with like-minded people.
U3A – the early years
In 1968 the French Government, recognising a need in the broader community, introduced legislation requiring French universities to provide ongoing learning for people who had reached the ‘third age’ of their lives. The three ages were classified as follows: the time of childhood and adolescence; the time of earning a living and rearing children, and the time of retirement, when people have the opportunity to pursue personal interests.
The initiative bore fruit, and at a summer school in 1973, the University of Toulouse started the world’s first U3A, catering specifically for the needs of older citizens. The University provided the curriculum and the courses but, unlike mainstream university courses, there were no fees, no exams and no prior qualifications for enrolment.
In 1981, the concept crossed the Channel; Cambridge University took it up, and then comprehensively changed the way it operated. U3A was completely divorced from the university and became an independent, autonomous and self-funding body. A new principle was introduced – that “those who teach shall learn and those who learn shall teach, and there shall be no distinction between the two”.
The result was that U3As were no longer dependent upon universities, but were now on their own to source, fund and deliver whatever courses they chose.
U3A in Australia
Australia was very quick to pick up the U3A concept and our first U3A was established in Melbourne in 1984. Others soon followed in Victoria and then spread across the country. The movement reached New South Wales in 1987. There are now more than 200 Australian U3As with an estimated total of over 63,000 members.
U3A Nambucca Valley
U3A Nambucca Valley began in 1998. Here we run many courses, groups and activities covering a wide range of interests. Some groups are conducted regularly throughout the year and some for a few sessions only. We hold regular forums on topics of special interest, and several times through the year arrange social events for our members.
As we are a voluntary organisation, costs are kept low. The membership fee of $20.00 per person entitles you to join any group. Individual courses may attract a small cost to cover overheads such as venue hire, but are usually no more than $2 a session.
Details of all current semester groups can be found on our course list page.
Click here for information on how to apply for membership.