Lifelong Learning U3A


A U3A is a learning circle or cooperative. Members learn from one another by sharing knowledge and experiences and engaging in shared activities. The word "university" in this context comes from the medieval meaning, a gathering or co-operative, where ''everyone teaches and everyone learns''.

Anyone can join, all you need is interest and enthusiasm. University in this context refers to the university of life - no qualifications are given, nor are any required. U3A began in Toulouse, France in 1972 and there are now U3As all over the world. U3As in the UK operate under The Third Age Trust, and have over 500 groups and thousands of members.

What do members do?
U3A is a flexible DIY philosophy. Members design their own programme of activities to suit their own interests. At one meeting a member might speak about the local history of their town, at another, a member may facilitate a discussion on a book, a poem or topical issue. Activities that existing U3A groups in Ireland have organised include creative writing, stress management, talk on a holiday to Denmark, discussion on the book "The Da Vinci Code", visits to Irish Museum of Modern Art, the National Museum, Botanic Gardens and many other places of interest. Some groups also go on trips abroad together.

Where do they meet?
Members meet in a place convenient to them, such as a community centre, local library, museum or church hall. They can even meet in somebody's house if they are a small group starting up.

How often do they meet?
Some groups meet weekly, others fortnightly and others monthly depending on what suits the group. A typical meeting would last about 2 hours.

How can I join?
New members are always welcome and you can contact Sam O'Brien-Olinger, Education Development Officer for further details on existing U3A groups or if you would like to set up your own. Each U3A group operates independently.

Who can participate?
Any group of older people can participate in this style of learning, whether it be a new group, or an existing group wishing to expand the horizons of its activities, for example, active retirement groups.

Can people in day centres, nursing homes and hospitals participate?
Health professionals working in day centres or residential care can get involved in the U3A movement by developing learning centres in these facilities. You can collaborate with residents on learning projects that express their diverse interests and the wealth of their life experience. Health involves the whole person and the whole community - a sense of well-being that rests on participation, sharing and diversity.

What do members say about U3A?

"I have found it a great way of meeting people of like mind and interests"

"Don't be afraid to start small. We were just a small group of people, most of whom had not previously met but who were interested in expanding their horizons. Now we have regular speakers, take field trips and go on overnight trips together."

"The U3A group has meant friendship and contact and fruitful exchange"

"When I come to meetings, I forget I am a grandmother!"

"New horizons!"

"Having outlived many relatives and friends, U3A is a great opportunity to
meet and make new friends"

"Communication is better than medication"

How is Age Action Ireland involved?
Age Action acts as support and liaison for existing groups, so that for example if Lucan U3A were organising an event and wanted to invite some members from Blessington U3A, AAI could help with communication and administration. A national U3A newsletter is published quarterly which helps the development of the network. A monthly e-bulletin is also circulated to keep U3A members up to date with the latest news and info relating to the ongoing activities within our U3A groups and also notifies them of any upcoming activities/events that they may like to participate in.

Sam O'Brien-Olinger, Education Development Officer AAI is responsible for the support and expansion of the U3A programme. You can contact her at Age Action on 01 4756989.

U3A Developments

In 2004, Con Lehane from the Cork Retired People's Network designed the U3A logo, as seen at the top of this page and on the U3A Ireland newsletters.

There are nine U3A groups in Northern Ireland and cross-border links have been established. In September 2004 as part of Positive Ageing Week, members from Dublin City, Ballymun and Terenure U3As travelled to Belfast to meet with members of Belfast U3A and enjoyed a tour of the city. A reciprocal visit took place in June 2005.

More recently, on 14th June 2010, Sutton Baldoyle U3A travelled to Newry to meet with Newry U3A. They were given a tour of Newry U3A rooms & offices and then both groups headed off for a day out around Carlingford Lough, Rostrevor and Newry City.

Contacts in Ireland

View U3A in a larger map

For a full list of contacts in Ireland, please click here

Contacts overseas
In the UK, is the address for the Third Age Trust.


For more information on U3A contact:

Sam O'Brien-Olinger
Education Officer
Age Action Ireland
30-31 Lower Camden Street
Dublin 2

Tel: 01 4756989
Fax: 01 4756011