What is U3A?

U3A is a unique organisation of retired and semi-retired people who enjoy learning from each other, sharing their skills and life experiences, mainly through meetings and interest groups.

The third age concept was devised in France in 1972, and now U3A has hundreds of thousands of members world-wide.

U3A in Hamilton

U3A was launched in Hamilton in 1996. Our purpose is to recognise retired people possess knowledge, skills and interests that may be shared, and to offer opportunities for people to learn new skills, new knowledge and new ways of thinking. This includes meeting with others in small groups where friendships may also be fostered.

Origins of U3A

U3A is an international movement which was devised in Toulouse, France in 1972, by Prof Pierre Vellas who  wanted to offer courses open to older people and found the rules did not allow it. A legislative change was needed to establish “L’universite du trosieme age”.

In 1981 an English group visited France and decided that this model still excluded many older people from further study as it was restricted to those who could attend courses at a local university. They developed a British pattern designed for “third agers” (those who are partially or fully retired) to organise themselves and draw on their shared expertise.

The movement spread to Australia in 1984 and New Zealand in 1989. A Hamilton group was founded in 1996. There are now many groups across New Zealand, providing access to speakers of interest and to a range of special interest self-organising groups on topics as diverse as music, gardening, French language, current events, computing or history.