The U3A Movement

The University of the Third Age (U3A) consists of groups of people, no longer in the work-force, who appreciate the stimulation, companionship and the very real enjoyment of learning together. They are aware that exercise of the brain is essential to the maintenance of good health.

U3As are voluntary, self-motivated organizations. They tap the great reservoir of knowledge, skills and experience which is often undervalued and overlooked.

The teaching, planning and administration of a U3A branch is carried out by its own members on a voluntary basis. This distinguishes U3As from the traditional approaches to educational provision in our society.

Why “University”?

A U3A is a university in the original sense of the word – a voluntary community of people devoted to learning

Why “Third Age”?

Childhood is the first age. The next age is that of career & parental responsibility. The third age is when we are no longer in the full-time workforce.

When did U3A start?

The first U3A was at the University of Toulouse in France, in 1972. It sought to improve the quality of life for older people by bringing them into contact with academic programs run by the university.

In 1981 U3A began in England, at Cambridge University. The French model was modified – rather than using pre-existing University courses a mutual-help organisation evolved.

The first U3A in Australia was founded at Monash University in Victoria, in 1984. Established at a public meeting held in May 1987, U3A Shoalhaven was the first U3A in New South Wales. U3A Sydney followed in 1988.

When did it start in Wollongong?

U3A began its activities in Wollongong in 1988 in response to the enthusiasm shown at a meeting called to assess that interest.

Do I need any qualifications?

No formal qualifications are required, none are offered – those joining, do so for the pleasure of learning. There are no examinations and all sessions are informal and lively.

What form do sessions take?

Sessions on a variety of subjects are held in the daytime, each with a speaker from the membership or the wider community. On Thursdays talks often extend to short series to explore a topic in greater depth. Members take every opportunity to ask questions or to express their point of view.

What subjects are discussed?

Talks are given by members on subjects that interest them and by guests speaking in their chosen field. Specific classes are held when tutors are available. There are four terms in each year and at the beginning of each term, a program of sessions and classes is sent with a newsletter, to which members are invited to contribute.

How do I become a member?

Enrolment day is in February of each year and is announced in the press as well as in the Newsletter.

On Monday & Thursday mornings committee members are available for further information and enrolment. Enrolment form and cheque can also be mailed to Membership, U3A Wollongong, PO Box 532, WOLLONGONG 2520.

How is U3A administered?

U3A is financially self-supporting and its funds – from membership fees – are used for renting accommodation, printing, postage, etc. The activities are administered by a Committee of Management which is elected by the members at the annual General Meeting, held in June each year.

Course Co-ordinators from within this committee are responsible for engaging speakers and tutors who give their services on a voluntary basis.

What are the benefits of membership of U3A?

One of the major benefits of joining U3A is stimulation of the mind but the camaraderie and fun engendered is of equal importance. There is always time for a “cuppa” and a chat, and with periodic social get-togethers and excursions, members of all classes meet one another and so the social circle widens.

Surveys show that older persons are “perfectly capable of continuing with and deriving pleasure from learning” and find that “improvement of health” is due to an “increase of mindfulness”. Members of U3A in Wollongong can vouch for these statements.

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