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The U3A Movement
The original concept of Universities of the Third Age (U3A) started in Toulouse, France in 1972. There are now U3As all over the world. U3As are not associated with universities in the normal educational system. 'University' is used in the sense of a group of persons devoted to mutual learning, with no distinction between 'teacher' and 'taught'.
The U3A in the UK started by the creation of the 'Third Age Trust' in 1982. The Trust represents all U3As in the UK at a national and international level. It is run by a National Executive Committee democratically elected from the membership and offers a range of services to support and advise local U3As. The objectives of the Third Age Trust are the "advancement of education, and in particular the education of middle aged and older people who are not in full time gainful employment." U3As also include group leisure activities. No payment is made to members for their services.
In 2017 the number of U3As in the UK reached 1000 and the number is increasing all the time. Individual U3As such are democratic, self-funding, organisations within their constitution and as members of the Third Age Trust. They work on the principle of self-help learning, enabling retired and semi-retired people to take part in educational and leisure activities. Members are encouraged to share their knowledge and skills.
U3As collaborate with institutions such as museums, galleries, universities and libraries, in learning partnerships in which both U3As and the institutions themselves may benefit through research and advancement of knowledge.