The University of the Third Age (U3A) is a 'self-help' adult education movement providing opportunities for older adults to enjoy a range of activities associated with well-being in later life. Two substantially different approaches, the original French approach, and the British approach which evolved a few years later, have become the dominant U3A models adopted by different countries around the world.
The concept of U3A was developed in Toulouse in 1972, to bring older people into contact with academic University programs and spread rapidly through throughout Europe. Many universities either arranged for older people to participate in existing academic programs or established new programs specifically designed for ‘Third Age’ students.
The first British U3A was established in 1982 at Cambridge. In contrast with the French experience, where U3A have a close association with traditional universities as providers of educational programs, the British U3A have developed only outreach links with the universities. The British model embraces principles of self-help and self-determination, structuring programs and courses to meet the wishes of members and drawing on resources available within the membership as far as possible. These same principles have been adopted by U3A in Australia.
Australia's first U3A began in Melbourne in 1984. The first U3A in South Australia commenced in 1986 and Adelaide Hills started four years later in 2000.