Networks are informal groupings of u3as usually local to each other. Representatives from each u3a meet to share ideas, events, speakers, training sessions, discuss issues and support each other.

Networks are vital links in the communication chain across the organisation and are greatly valued by the Trust.


See below for answers to your questions about Networks and Network Link.

Scroll down for ideas and information about Peer Support Groups and Networks. 

What is a Network?

'Network' is a generic term for groups of u3as which have chosen to work together for support and the mutual benefit of the members of the u3as concerned. They form organically and are not imposed by any external source. They adopt various titles to suit their style and their purpose e.g. link, forum, association, Network, peer support group, or cluster.

What is the difference between a Network and a region?

A Network is organic in that it is formed by consenting u3as and it might change in size over time. It may be large or small, completely informal or governed by a constitution. A region is in effect a constituency defined by the Third Age Trust. The Trust has divided the UK into nine English regions and the three countries of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales for electoral purposes with each region nominating and electing a Trustee to the National Executive Committee. In some parts of the country, the Network and the region are the same geographically.

What is the relationship between Networks and regions?

It varies. Some Networks have no contact with their region while others operate independently but invite their Regional Trustee to meetings. In some regions, the Networks are fully integrated into the structure and send representatives to regional or regional support meetings.

Do all u3as have to belong to a Network?

No. Membership of a Network is voluntary.

Why should a u3a join a Network?

It provides the opportunity to meet others with similar responsibilities and share experiences and events, discuss new ideas, develop solutions to challenges and participate in Network organised events such as workshops, study days or summer schools. If your u3a does not participate, it may be deprived of potential benefits. However, it is entirely your decision.

Do we have to join the nearest one to us?


Can a u3a belong to more than one Network?

Yes. Some u3as choose to belong to more than one Network, especially if they are situated on county borders. Additionally, in some places, there may be small Networks of, say, four or five neighbouring u3as working together inside a larger Network.

Do Networks have set boundaries?

Boundaries vary with local practice and are determined by the member u3as so they may or may not follow county boundaries. They may also cross regional boundaries.

What do Networks do?

This depends on what the member u3as forming the Network want and can offer but it may include:

  • Developing and sharing lists of potential speakers.
  • Organising Network study/interest days for members of the Network's u3as (and sometimes neighbouring u3as).
  • Organising training/information events for u3a committee members, potential committee members, group leaders/convenors etc.
  • Organising shared learning projects.
  • Establishing links with outside organisations, such as universities, and participating in local initiatives.
  • Providing a regular forum for member u3as to meet together to share information, disseminate good practice and discuss issues of concern ..
  • Sharing resources and setting up reciprocal interest group arrangements between members of the Network.
  • Produce a newsletter.
  • Arranging inter-u3a competitions.
  • Increasing awareness of u3a in the community.
  • Support communications to and from The Third Age Trust

The Trust is keen to encourage small groups of u3as to arrange workshops/seminars on topics concerned with the running and future development of their u3as. Any small group of u3as which would like to hold such an event may apply for a grant from The Trust to cover venue hire and associated administrative costs and possibly a contribution towards refreshments. For more information, contact your Regional Trustee.

How often do Networks meet?

It is up to the member u3as to decide but usually, between two and four times a year is recommended to maintain momentum.

How do Networks communicate?

Often by email, via a website or through newsletters but it is up to each Network to decide.

Do Networks co-operate with one another?

It is up to the member u3as to decide but there are good examples of Networks coming together to organise conferences, residential schools, study days and social events as well as sharing good practice, speaker lists etc.

How are Networks organised?

It varies. Networks choose their own organisational structure. Some are very informal with no constitution or procedural rules, no committee and no bank accounts. Instead, the u3as take it in turns to organise meetings and events. Other Networks may prefer to have a constitution which governs the running of the Network and defines the frequency of meetings, rules for elections to the committee, banking arrangements etc. If you intend to set up a Network bank account, you will need a constitution.

How are Networks funded?

Many Networks levy a small capitation fee on their member u3as. Others charge one flat rate or a fee related to membership bands. Others use different ways to raise funds. Some choose not to charge and ensure that all events are self-funded, but it is important that Networks remain solvent.

What involvement does the Third Age Trust have with Networks?

The Trust is extremely supportive of Networks and recognises the important part they play currently in both the lives of individual u3as and the movement as a whole, and the increasingly significant part they will play as the number of u3as hopefully continues to rise. With the large number of individual u3as throughout the UK, it is difficult for The Trust to stay in touch and get feedback from the whole organisation. Whereas the Networks are a useful intermediate level allowing The Trust to reach u3as through the Networks.

In addition, as stated, funding is available for Networks to organise meetings/seminars on aspects of running a u3a and the Trust would be happy to provide advice and help with the programme.

Do Networks play any part in the election of Regional Trustees?

 No. They cannot nominate or second candidates and they have no voting rights. These are held exclusively by individual u3as which make up the membership of the Trust.

What if there is no Network in our part of the country or we cannot get to the meetings of our nearest one?

 There is nothing to stop a small group of u3as setting one up or setting up a cluster/forum/ association and sending a representative from that to Network meetings/events, to spread the load.

Peer Support Groups and Networks

A Peer Group is defined as a grouping of members holding a similar committee or other responsibilities within their u3a. (e.g. a ‘Treasurers’ peer group). A Peer Group Network would enable members of a regional Peer Group to engage in mutual support by solving shared problems, describing best practice, exchanging ideas for new developments, etc. The members could be current post-holders but could also be past or prospective postholders or an ordinary u3a member – wherever the interest or competency lies.

Peer Support Shared Practice Guide - ideas compiled from various networks by Derek Harwood of London Region. We hope you find them useful.

Current Networks

East Midlands 

Derbyshire u3a Network
East Lincolnshire Neighbourhood
Leicestershire and Rutland Network of u3as
Lincoln Neighbourhood Group
Northamptonshire Network of u3as
Nottinghamshire Network of u3as
South Lincolnshire Neighbourhood Group

 East of England

Anglia Network
Beds Plus u3a Network
East Herts Cluster Group
Essex Association of u3as
Herts Network of u3as
Maldon Cluster
North East Essex Cluster
North East Norfolk
Suffolk and District
Wash and Fenland Forum
South West Herts Cluster Group 


BOB (Bromley, Orpington and Beckenham)
Greater London South East Network
London Region of u3as
South West London Network 

 North East

Border Link
Northumbria Business Secretaries
Northumbria Group Co-ordinators
Northumbria IT Network
Northumbria Membership Secretaries
Northumbria Region u3a
North Northumberland Network (NNN)
SE Northumbria u3a Chair’s Network
Northumbria Treasurers
Tyne Valley Network

North West

Clitheroe Cluster
Deeside and Wirral u3as
Greater Manchester u3a Network
LM Network
Mid Cheshire Network
North East Cheshire Network
North Cumbria
Pennine Link
South East Cheshire Network

The Bay

Northern Ireland

Greater Belfast and North Down
Northern Ireland Region


Central Belt
u3a in Scotland

South East

Beds Plus u3a Network
Kent u3a Network
NE Hants & SW Surrey
New Forest u3a Network
Southampton & District u3a Network
Hampshire South Central
Sussex u3a Network (SUN)
Surrey u3a Network
Thames Valley u3a Network
West Sussex

South West

Avalon Network
Bath & Wiltshire
Channel Islands
Cotswold u3a Link
Devon Link
East Devon Link/Network
East Dorset Network
Mid Cornwall
North Devon u3a Link
Northern Somerset Association of u3a's
Tamar Valley
Two Moors
West Cornwall
West Dorset
West Somerset Partnership


Mid Wales Network
North Wales Network
South Wales Network
West Wales Network

West Midlands

Cotswold u3a Link
Coventry & Warwick
East Staffordshire Link
Mid-Staffordshire Neighbourhood Link
Shropshire Area u3as
Solihull Cluster
South Birmingham
Stratford 5

Yorkshire & the Humber

Humber Accord