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A Brief History of the U3A, a Worldwide Organisation
U3A: The University of the Third Age. It began in France in 1972 at the University of Toulouse to improve the quality of life for older people by bringing them into contact with studies run by the University; hence the name. The Third Age is a recognised semi-retired or retired period in one’s life where the person is neither dependent on others (First Age), working (Second Age) or dependent in old age (Fourth Age).
U3A didn’t begin in Britain until 1981 at Cambridge University. The original French model was changed with a deliberate emphasis away from academia to develop a self-help organisation and to promote personal achievement and fulfilment, not least of all in friendly and sociable environments.
There are now over 1000 U3As across the UK with more than 390,000 members.
All U3As are charitable bodies, run by volunteers under the umbrella of the Third Age Trust and answerable to the Charities Commission. Each group pays an amount per member to the National body which in turn provides legal help, arranges an Annual Conference, runs Summer Schools and provides various materials for courses and promotions.
The main aims of the U3A are:
* to encourage older people no longer in full time employment to share their personal skills and knowledge with others;
* to ensure that where possible a U3A exists for their benefit;
* to maintain that qualifications are not required and are not given by the U3A
Our Congleton U3A was started by local resident Elizabeth Hallam. Her husband Ken had joined the Alsager U3A but any courses that interested Elizabeth were on days when she was not available! She also noticed that nobody from Congleton had enrolled there and so she came up with the idea of starting a U3A in Congleton. She contacted various people and organisations in the town, raised funding to enable a steering committee to be formed and after a great deal of work and careful planning a first public meeting was held in the Town Hall on 9th September 1998.
One hundred and twenty people attended that meeting and pledged support for the new U3A, which began approximately one month later. Over one hundred people enrolled and there were nineteen groups offered. Elizabeth Hallam (now our Life President) became the first Chair of Congleton U3A.
From then on, Congleton U3A has continued to grow and is now one of the largest groups in the country, having approximately 1400 members and over 100 different activities/trips/holidays on offer. With ongoing support from all its members, old and new, Congleton U3A should continue to grow and prosper.
Page last updated : 22 July 2017