The University of the Third Age (U3A) was founded in Toulouse, France, in 1972. Its aim was to improve the quality of life for older people by bringing them into contact with academic programs run by the university. The concept proved very popular and led to the rapid spread of U3As to other countries. By 1975 an International Association of U3As had been established.
The British Model
In 1981 the U3A concept was introduced into Britain, but in contrast to the French model, the British U3As quickly evolved away from pre-packaged courses offered by universities. Instead, they adopted the idea of a self-help or mutual-aid organisation, where there would be no distinction between teachers and pupils. There would only be members of U3A who would be encouraged to participate, either by teaching, learning, or assisting with planning and administration.
U3A in Australia
In 1984 the first Australian U3As were formed in Melbourne, based on the British model. The movement is now Australia wide. All U3A branches are voluntary, self-help groups, which operate independently. There are more than 65 U3A groups in NSW and about 300 across Australia. There are about 10,000 U3A members Australia-wide.
In October 1989 the University of Western Sydney, Nepean, announced that “an exciting new era is about to start for the retired people of Sydney’s west (Parramatta to the Blue Mountains) with the coming of University of the Third Age – U3A”. Classes began in May 1990 run by volunteer staff and by the following year the list of courses being offered included: Australian History, Community Studies, English Literature, French and German Conversation, Music Appreciation, Only One Earth and English for Adult Migrants.
U3A in the Hawkesbury
U3A Hawkesbury was formed in February 1994 at a meeting of twenty people, at the Hawkesbury Retirement Village, Richmond. Today we have more than 300 members and we are still growing. The organisation works through the co-operation of its members, and taps into a great reservoir of knowledge, skills and experience among older people and releases it for the benefit of all.