U3A stands for "University of the Third Age".
University, in this sense, means a gathering of people. It is not a college building, but simply a group of people interested in following a common programme of activities. No educational or professional qualifications are required (and there are no exams!)
The "Third Age" is the time in life when your career may be coming to an end, and/or parental and caring responsibilities have lessened. Third-agers have more time to explore new opportunities – both educational and social.
U3A members organise their own activities and learn together. They draw on the skills, knowledge, and experience of one another - everyone teaches and everyone learns.
U3A originally began in France in 1974 and has spread worldwide.
As the concept has become more popular in Ireland membership is growing and the number of branches is on the increase.
U3A members from one group can attend sessions organised by another group.
Activities that U3A groups in Ireland have organised include talks on local history and wildlife, tai chi, creative writing, stress management, gardening, computers, poetry appreciation, visits to museums, attending the Yeats Winter School, walking festivals, and many other active ageing and learning opportunities and activities.
U3A groups have also participated in all kinds of other activities with learners of all ages, including a variety of projects and initiatives in collaboration with universities and other Further Education and Training institutes.
There are groups right across the country and numbers are constantly growing!
So a U3A group is a learning circle of older people that encourages members to share in all kinds of educational, creative, and social activities. Anyone can join – all you need is interest and an open mind.
And if you find that there's no U3A group near you, you can always start your own!