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History of U3A
U3A is an international movement which has spread from France since 1973. The Cambridge UK model changed from the original university concept to one where members themselves were the teachers. This model was adopted in Australia, the first being in Melbourne in 1984. U3A Sunshine Coast and Brisbane were established in 1986. There are now over 30 U3A branches in Queensland with many thousands of members.

What ARE Universities of the Third Age?
Universities of the Third Age, or U3A as they are more often called are voluntary, non-profit organisations which aim to offer older people low-cost educational opportunities which operate in a pleasant, supportive social setting. There are no formal entry requirements, no examinations and no "awards". U3A are basically self-help groups built on the premise that collectively older people have the skills and knowledge to provide learning opportunities (education) for themselves. After all, "experts" of all kinds in all fields eventually retire! In fact the word "university" in the title is used in its earliest sense – a community of scholars who get together to help each other in a learning/social experience. Most of the groups in Australia are community based, but there are several, mainly in the capital cities, which do have an affiliation with and receive support from their local University. The principles of self-help and mutual support are the cornerstone of the U3A movement.

The U3A movement in Australia per head of population, has the greatest number of U3A groups in the world, and continues to expand . Four states have a state body, viz. The the U3A Queensland Network, the Victorian Network, the South Australian U3A Alliance, and the NSW Network. U3A Canberra functions as both a local U3A and a state body. All U3A are autonomous and the state bodies act only as advisory and administrative units. There is also the nationally-based U3A Online, a “virtual” U3A. The State bodies, together with U3A ACT, U3AOnline, and the support of U3A UWA (Western Australia) have recently formed a national co-operative group called the U3A Australia Alliance (U3AAA).Australia, per head of population, has the greatest number of U3A groups in the world.

How do U3A operate?
Each U3A is an autonomous association whose members are, in the main, retired or at least semi-retired. The recommended age-requirement for membership is 50 years plus.
Each group is run by a Management Committee democratically elected from among members. Administration and office functions are performed by members on a voluntary basis.
Course leaders/tutors are as far as possible drawn from the membership, although community (non-U3A) volunteers may sometimes be willing to conduct short courses or a one-off presentation. In the spirit of SHARING, there is no distinction between teacher and taught; the leader of one course may well be a student in another. Course leaders (member or non-member) do not receive payment for their services, but are on occasion reimbursed for out of pocket expenses such as travel, photocopying etc.


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