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u3a - About

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.

There are 1,057 u3as with over 388,000 members; membership costs less than £20 on average per year and is open to everyone who’s no longer in full-time work.

u3a has members who draw upon their knowledge and experience to teach and learn from each other but there are no qualifications to pass – it is just for pleasure. Learning is its own reward.

It's all voluntary; a typical u3a will be home to many activity groups covering hundreds of different subjects - from art to zoology and everything in between.

Two members of Slough u3a talking after a game of table tennis

Photo Credit: Mark Thomas

The u3a story

Founded in 1982, the UK u3a movement (based loosely on the French model) aims to encourage groups of people no longer in full-time work to come together and continue their enjoyment of learning subjects of interest to them.

From the start, the guiding principles were to promote lifelong learning through self-help interest groups covering a wide range of topics and activities as chosen by their members. There is no minimum age, but a focus on people who are no longer in full-time employment or raising a family. Our founders envisaged a collaborative approach with peers learning from each other. The u3a movement was to be self-funded, with members not working towards qualifications but learning purely for pleasure. There would be no distinction between the learners and the teachers – everyone could take a turn at being both if they wished.

The movement grew very quickly and by the early 1990s, a u3a was opening every fortnight. u3as started in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and in 2008 membership was increasing by 11% every year. 2010 saw our membership hitting the quarter million mark. 2022 sees the 40th Anniversary of the movement in the UK and we are celebrating with a year-long programme of events and celebrations.

If you'd like to find out more about u3a and how to become a member, please visit our Join Us page.

Governance and reporting

The u3a national body – the Third Age Trust - looks after all the u3as in the UK, providing educational and administrative support. The Trust is overseen by a Board of Directors, to which any u3a member may be elected.

Each year the Trust holds an Annual General Meeting which is attended by members; issues affecting the whole movement are discussed and voted on as well as any Board elections taking place. As part of the Annual General Meeting, the Trust creates and publishes a report and accounts. View the latest report and accounts: