U3As are for people in retirement or semi-retirement. They enable members to share intellectual, cultural, creative, physical and leisure interests. These activities encourage positive ageing, and provide fulfilment and personal enrichment.
U3As are voluntary, non-profit organisations which are non-sectarian and non-political. There is no central governing body, each branch sets up its own organisation and programmes, run by volunteers from among the branch’s members. Branches fund themselves, arrange speakers for the regular meetings, often drawing on their own members to share their specific experiences and talents. There are no advantages, either material or financial, for those who volunteer their services.
There are no exams, no educational requirements, no compulsory activities. Costs are minimal to suit everyone, and meetings are held during the daytime.
The first U3A was established at the University of Toulouse, France in 1973. Many U3As in France and other countries of Europe are associated with universities.
U3A changed when it reached Cambridge, UK in 1981. Members would be the teachers as well as the learners.
U3A was introduced to New Zealand in 1989 and has now grown to over 78 branches.