The Origins of U3A

World Roots

The U3A Movement began in France in 1973 when educational opportunities for mature members of the public were provided on a regular basis with university staff as teachers.

In 1975 the International Association of Universities of the Third Age (IAUTA) was founded. This now has members in twenty three countries. The French academic model is used in a number of countries, especially in continental Europe.

U3A Structure

The U3A movement is comprised of layers, each supporting and assisting those above and below.

  • International Association of Universities of the Third Age (IAUTA)
  • The Third Age Trust (national representative body for U.K. U3As)
  • Regional Committees
  • Local Association

UK Roots

Founded in 1982, u3a* is a UK-wide movement of locally-run interest groups that provide a wide range of opportunities to come together to learn for fun. Members explore new ideas, skills and activities together.

* University of the Third Age

U3A Aims

Whilst local U3As are self-governing – registration requires them to adhere to the aims and guiding principles of the organisation.

  • To encourage and enable older people no longer in full-time paid employment to help each other to share their knowledge, skills, interests and experience.
  • To demonstrate the benefits and enjoyment to be gained and the new horizons to be discovered in learning throughout life.
  • To celebrate the capabilities and potential of older people and their value to society.
  • To make U3As accessible to all older people.
  • To encourage the establishment of U3As in every part of the country where conditions are suitable and to support and collaborate with them

Northern Ireland Region & Groups

The Northern Ireland Regional Executive Committee (NIREC) leads the regional activities. NIREC organises the Spring AGM and the Autumn Regional Meeting, usually with speakers from the Third Age Trust. All Northern Ireland U3As are invited to attend and costs for two representatives from each are covered by the Third Age Trust.  Several Inter-U3A events are also facilitated, and the NIREC liaises on behalf of the regions U3As with outside bodies.

The U3A movement in Northern Ireland is steadily growing with 24 registered U3A groups in 2023 and with a number of individuals actively seeking to set up groups in other localities.

Information on Northern Ireland’s U3A groups is available on the regional website including contact details. Additionally, the majority of the above groups have their own individual websites and links are provided for these.

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