University of the Third Age

U3A Worldwide Movement

U3A stands for University of the Third Age. It is a worldwide movement which started in France in the 1970s and is now well established in many countries worldwide.The first age of life is childhood with much dependency on parents and teachers for growth and development. The second age is about independent living, work life and social responsibilities. The third age, at retirement when there is more leisure time and and lesser social responsibilities, can be the most rewarding stage. Sadly this is often not the case.

Hence the U3A has an important role to play in enabling third agers to live more meaningful and happy lives.U3A is not a university in the conventional sense. It began at the University of Toulouse in France when Professor Pierre Vellas conducted a summer school for retired people with a programme of lectures, concerts, guided tours, and other cultural activities. This was so successful that news spread and similar programmes mushroomed across France and abroad. The Universitie du Troisieum was established in 1973. An International Association of Third Age Universities was formed in 1975 at a congress held in Toulouse and the first national association, the Union Francaise des Universities du Troisieme Age, was founded in 1980.

The movement gained credibility internationally and was recognized as a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) accredited by United Nations, UNESCO and the World Health Organisation (WHO). A defining characteristic of French U3As lies in the requirement that University staff teach courses and that a U3A has a direct link with an established university but not all their U3As followed this route. Many countries such as Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands follow the French university-linked U3A model.The majority of U3As outside France have developed on a local community basis.

In UK the first U3A was established in Cambridge by Prof Peter Laslett of Cambridge University. It grew out of a committee of interested people which met at Trinity College in 1982 and had no direct affiliation with Cambridge University. It adopted the idea of a self-help organization built on self sufficiency and retained the idea of university in the medieval sense of a community of scholars seeking knowledge and truth for its own sake. It also adopted a philosophy of teacher and learner equality summed up in Laslett’s often-cited principle “Those who teach shall also learn and those who learn shall also teach”.This so called Cambridge model has been adopted by many U3As worldwide including those in Australia and New Zealand.

U3A Singapore

U3A Singapore is a member of the International Association of Universities of the Third Age (IAUTA). Like other U3As worldwide we seek to meet the needs of third agers by providing a range of activities and programmes to keep them physically fit and mentally alert and thereby optimize their opportunities to live meaningful and happy lives.We have built on the Cambridge U3A model to develop our own concept of “Learning Communities”. Increasingly, research is showing that continuing learning through later life is key to longevity and quality living. Many U3As have also found it beneficial to incorporate social and leisure activities. U3A Singapore is also adopting this as it evolves its concept of Learning Communities.

Operating Philosophy
Spirit of Voluntarism
  1. Members undertake to learn and to help others to learn. Those who teach shall also learn and those who learn shall also teach.
  2. Members shall volunteer in any way they can to assist in U3A Singapore events and activities.
  3. Members shall not expect any salary, fee or financial reward for conducting courses or other services rendered.

Fun in Learning

  1. No academic qualifications are required to join learning communities. There shall be no examination system and award of degrees, diplomas or certificates.
  2. Every effort shall be made to conduct learning activities in an interesting, fun and relaxed way.


  1. Membership and course fees shall be set at an affordable level. Special consideration shall be given to hardship cases. Every member shall join at least one of U3A’s Learning Communities.