What is U3A?
The concept of U3A evolved in France during the early 1970s, when increasing numbers of older people were beginning to seek further education during their years of retirement.
It was recognised that this third stage of life, which followed on from the two earlier periods of childhood and work/child rearing, could be the most fruitful for learning if suitable opportunities were available.
In the event, the approach adopted in France was to follow the style of the medieval universities. This involved setting up communities of those who sought greater understanding through interactive learning. Hence the term University of the Third Age, now shortened to U3A — this shorter form conveniently avoids explicit use of the word “University” in the title which would conflict with New Zealand law.
The U3A idea spread rapidly through the Western world, and there are now hundreds of thousands of members of U3A in many countries.
How does U3A work?
U3A continues to be a concept rather than an organisation. Because of this, each U3A group is an independent body, even though regional and national networking structures have been set up in many areas. Although the idea of a community of learning continues to persist, individual groups have put this notion into practice in many different ways.
There are, however, common characteristics:
- Courses take place during daylight hours.
- Learning topics are selected by members of the group.
- The style of presentation is determined by members of the group.
- Presenters/facilitators are frequently members of the group, but experts from many fields are invited to contribute on a voluntary basis.
- The atmosphere for learning is friendly and informal – discussion is encouraged.
- There are no compulsory activities.
- There are no examinations.
- As U3A is a non-profit making organisation, course costs are kept to a minimum.
U3A Dunedin Charitable Trust
U3A Dunedin was set up in 1994 and became a registered Charity in 2001.
A copy of the Trust Deed, Amendments to the Trust Deed
U3A is a non-profit organisation and is dependent on the goodwill of people sharing their knowledge and expertise. All our contributors give their time freely and voluntarily. Among our members we have access to very experienced speakers from a wide range of disciplines. From its inception U3A Dunedin has had a close relationship with the University of Otago and we are fortunate that University of Otago staff frequently give of their time to U3A.
Three times a year, in Autumn, Winter and Spring, U3A Dunedin runs a series of courses for its members. In general, each series contains six courses and each course consists of six two-hour weekly sessions, with a twenty minute break for coffee and tea and delicious biscuits or scones. Questions and discussions make the courses interactive events.
What are the special characteristics of U3A in Dunedin?
- The group has been presenting courses since 1994 and there are at present about 800 members, aged from 50 to 90+, who come from all walks of life and who are intellectually active.
- U3A in Dunedin has been set up as a Charitable Trust managed by a Board elected each year at the Annual General Meeting. A members’ luncheon is held in conjunction with that meeting.
- The Board meets regularly to consider reports on completed courses and to develop ideas for new courses.
- Normally three series of six courses (usually each of six weeks) are run each year, during autumn, winter and spring.
- The courses cover many branches of learning, including literature, biological and physical sciences, philosophy, art, music and the social sciences.
- Courses are normally held at the Otago Golf Club and the Leith Bowling Club. Both venues are easily accessible and not far from public transport.
- The maximum number accepted for each course is 140 for the Leith Bowling Club and 160 for the Otago Golf Club.
- All presenters give their services on a voluntary basis, so that course fees can be kept to a minimum. (Any out of pocket expenses are refunded.)
- As applications for many courses exceed the available places, a ballot is held to determine who may attend.
- Each course usually consists of six to eight two-hour sessions (including a tea/coffee break of about 20 minutes) held weekly. A member takes responsibility for organising each course and for chairing its sessions.
- Each session usually consists of a lecture with time allowed for questions and discussion. This format is flexible and depends on the topic and the presenter.
- Sessions are normally held from 10 – 12 in the mornings (with a break at about 11) or from 2:15 – 4:15 in the afternoons (with a break at about 3).
- Autumn courses usually start in early March, winter courses in early June and spring courses in early September. However, this timing is flexible; some winter and spring courses start a few weeks later.
- In addition there are smaller groups called Discussion Groups, with generally fewer than 10 people in each group. They meet monthly in a member's home or at an art gallery etc and discuss a range of topics depending on the interest of that group.