u3a - Current and Recent Projects

Below is a list of currently open and recently completed Research and Shared Learning projects. If you need further inspiration for your own project you can also have a look through the research database.


Current Research and Shared Learning Projects

These are open to any member, and you can sign up for information about related events and opportunities. You do not need to join via your own u3a, but you might get more out of a project if you have some local buddies.
You can also use these projects as a starting point for a local or network-wide u3a group.

The High Street Project

High Street Project Blackburn courtesy Brian SimmsHigh Street Project Blackburn courtesy Brian Simms

High Street Project Ystrad Mynach courtesy Micahel BenjaminHigh Street Project Ystrad Mynach courtesy Michael Benjamin
This started in September 2020 and has three tiers of activity: surveying local shopping streets, taking photos, and identifying a local idea or ideas to explore further.

As a participant you get to take charge of your own photos on the High Street website where you can upload photos and documents about your area. Local ideas that members are developing so far include tracing local changes since the 1960s, getting involved with local Neighbourhood Plans, gathering reminiscences of the shops of our childhood, art and sketching and making guided walks.

High Street Project Kingston courtesy Bob HigginsHigh Street Project Kingston courtesy Bob Higgins

The project website hosting your photographs, survey results and further projects will be around and available until 2032. For more information and to be included on the mailing list, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Foundlings Hospital Project Coram Foundation and the u3a

At present this project is fully subscribed, but expert talks may become available that you can join in with; contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to find out more. The Foundlings Hospital Project is part of a wider research programme run by the Coram Foundation called Voices Through Time, which anyone can take part in.

Slow Ways

Slow Ways are leading a national initiative to create a Great Britain-wide network of walking routes. A vast network of routes has been plotted, and volunteers are being asked to test them out and assess them.

north down and ards Heritage Group members in training to produce their first filmNorth Down and Ards Filmaking Group

North Down and Ards u3a, who have long-running links with North Down Museum, have deployed their own members' skills as well as local media providers to learn how to record and edit short films. Read their full informative article on the Sources blog.


The Davy Notebook Project with Lancaster University

Any u3a member can sign up and join in this online transcription project. We have group meetings periodically with our excellent research leaders, Drs Andrew Lacey and Ellie Bird.
Were currently transcribing the notebook used by Humphry Davy in the last year of his life. It's a long document combining many notes and jottings, including writing by Davy's wife and brother. It has never been studied closely and your transcription work means that wider access to works like this is made ever more possible.
And you can discover some of Humphry Davy's unhealthy habits, and esoteric beliefs, along the way!

Revealing the Past, with Transport for London’s Corporate Archives

Jo Walters of Orpington u3a is coordinating this project - one for the London Region and transport history lovers.


Examples of recent projects

u3a in the Time of Corona

time of coronaIn April 2020, Subject advisers Jo Livingston and Jennifer Simpson began gathering diary entries from u3a members around the UK. This ‘Diary Project’ resulted in a book, ‘u3a in the Time of Corona’, drawn from members’ contributions describing what turned out to be the first lockdown in 2020. It includes efforts to get a supermarket delivery and how to manage without a haircut, as well as how our members filled all that spare time and tried to keep the u3a going. After the first print run sold out, a second printing has been completed and you can buy a diary for £10 from the brand centre.

Part 1 of the diary, 'u3a in the Time of Corona' is available to order in paperback from the u3a Brand centre (separate login required).

Part 2 of the diary was produced in 2021, and is available as a free download.


Our 1901 Postal Pensioners led by Kings College London

In October 2020, 47 U3A members from South West England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland started working towards a collective biography of 96 pensioners who retired from the Post Office in 1901, the first year that a full census is available for England, Scotland, and Ireland.

postal Pensioners
As well as leading, guiding and collating the research, the team from KCL also arranged a season of lunchtime talks for u3a members via Zoom covering pensions history, the history of pandemics in the Post Office, health in turn of the century Belfast, death certificate histories, and histories of health in South-West England. These talks were extremely well attended and greatly appreciated by u3a members.



Happiness across the Ages

Lessons and tips from a collaborative, intergenerational, interdisciplinary research project on happiness devised by Exeter University and Exeter u3a. As well as background and a description of the project, the booklet contains a useful toolkit that can be applied to all project planning and implementation

Happiness Across the Ages booklet (1.07 MB)

Guardian Foundation Pitman Diaries transcription project – from article by Margaret Derrick

The Guardian Shorthand Project officially finished at the end of 2020. It involved translating the shorthand diaries of the Guardian’s Africa Correspondent from the 1960s, which is a very specialised skill set! Despite the lockdown arriving in the opening months of the project, the u3a volunteers made great inroads into this area of research and many have decided to continue with it in their own right.

Cary Ellison Theatre programmes

Cary Ellison was a talent spotter who worked for Spotlight magazine and as part of his work he went on twice yearly tours of repertory performances around the country in order to find up and coming actors, directors and plays. The programmes of these productions, heavily annotated by Ellison, are now at Kingston University. U3a members researched the places visited by Cary Ellison around the UK and expanded the detail of Kingston’s contextual knowledge for the Cary Ellison collection.
The project went into hibernation in 2020. If you want further news about this or other theatre studies-related projects please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.