U3A Swansea History
Swansea U3A was established in 1986 and we celebrated our 30th Anniversary in 2016. It is part of a world-wide movement, which started in France in 1972 as the Université du Troisième Age and became an international movement in 1979. When it came to Britain in 1982, it became more of a self-help organisation.
There are three ages of life:-
First age:- when we are dependent on parents for upbringing and receiving our formal education.
Second age:- when we are in fulltime gainful employment, maintaining a household, or bringing up a family.
Third age:- when we finish work and have the freedom to choose what to do with our time.
The term ‘university’ is used in the original sense of the word: a collective of people devoted to learning but it has members, not students. No academic qualifications are required or given. The precise pattern of a U3A varies from place to place but a typical U3A will offer a range of interest groups. As leadership comes from the members, a U3A member may be a student on a group one day and the leader or tutor the next. It is not always necessary to have an expert as leader. In some subjects, members learn from each other and the role of the leader is to encourage everyone to take part. A mutual interest in ‘learning for fun’ leads to new friendships based on an expanded social experience. Taking part in these activities is known to contribute to the health and wellbeing of older people, particularly those living alone.
Interest groups, we now have over 100, are often quite small with meetings or classes taking place in members’ houses. Not only does this save on accommodation costs, it makes for friendly contact among members. Costs are kept low so that members can take part in as many groups as they wish. Other larger groups meet in community halls and other venues where any costs are met by the group, usually no more than £3 per week.
The Third Age Trust is a national representative body for the U3A movement in the UK and provides a range of support services. The Trustees are elected from U3A’s in all parts of the UK and form the National Executive Committee of the Trust. It organises subject networks of individuals, who are willing to assist others in their particular field of study, e.g. languages, history etc. An AGM and Conference is held each year. National Office in Bromley houses a Resource Centre, which provides members with subject information.
Summer Schools are run each year offering tuition in a wide variety of subjects. These schools are open to members from all parts of the country and are staffed by volunteer tutors.
U3A is actively developing the use of the internet in the cause of lifelong learning. As well as the central website, many local U3A’s now have their own sites giving information about their activities. On-line courses are now available, some in co-operation with U3A in Australia.