The University of the Third Age

If you like learning and meeting people, the U3A could be for you

Have you heard of the U3A (University of the Third Age)? It’s a volunteer-led movement which aims to bring people together and promote lifelong learning in a friendly, informal environment. It’s for people in their ‘third age’ – so those who are either retired or semi-retired.

Why the ‘third age’?

Well, although there are no age restrictions, it simply means it’s aimed primarily at people who are no longer working or raising a family, and have more time available for developing their interests. So most members are 50 plus.


There’s no pressure to pass exams or sit qualifications – it’s learning, but purely for pleasure. Members of each U3A group use their knowledge and experience to teach and learn from each other.

If you have a skill or an interest, you can share it with the others in your group by taking a class – but there’s no pressure there either, it’s entirely up to you. It’s all voluntary, and there’s a nice social side to it, too, It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and new friends.

Founded in the UK in 1981, the U3A today has over 400,000 members in the UK and more than 1000 U3As all over the country. Each U3A has its own special interest groups or classes, which they say “can range from art to zoology and everything in between”!

Tai-chi, local history, painting; swimming, walking and bridge; gardening, crochet and computing – these are typical of the sorts of activities on offer, but as all classes are taught by members, what’s on offer is unique to each U3A.

There are more than 10,000 interest groups taking place around the country every week!

Each U3A sets their own yearly subs; generally speaking, you can expect this to be between £10 and £20.

If you’d like to find out more, or see if there’s a U3A near you, just go to

Everyone’s welcome, from all backgrounds, cultures and religions. Why not try something new?

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!