The U3A
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The Universities of the Third Age (U3As) in the United Kingdom are autonomous, self-help organisations run by the voluntary efforts of their members. The Third Age Trust, of which all U3As are members, is a registered charity and a limited company and is the national support and advisory body to local U3As. It is run by a National Executive Committee which is democratically elected by the membership. The word ‘university’ is used in its original sense of people coming together to share and pursue learning in all its forms.

An overview of the U3A Movement:
The U3A Movement was started by Professor Pierre Vellas in Toulouse in 1972 with a summer school for Third Agers. The summer school was successful and in 1973 he started the first U3A providing educational opportunities for members on a regular basis with university staff as teachers. In 1975 he also founded the International Association of Universities of the Third Age (IAUTA). IAUTA now has members in around twenty countries. The principles of the U3A movement were brought to the UK in 1982 with a successful Easter School in Cambridge; but with the major change that we rely on self-help education where "teachers become learners". Our first U3As were created in 1982 and the Third Age Trust as a national affiliating body was founded in 1983. There are now over 1016 U3As in the UK with a combined membership of over 404,000, which is growing at a rate of around 8% per annum. It is the only national education organisation in the UK run entirely by its own members.

The aims of the U3A movement in the UK are:
1. To encourage and enable older people no longer in full-time paid employment to help each other to share their knowledge, skills, interests and experience.
2. To demonstrate the benefits and enjoyment to be gained and the new horizons to be discovered in learning throughout life.
3. To celebrate the capabilities and potential of older people and their value to society.
4. To make U3As accessible to all older people.
5. To encourage the establishment of U3As in every part of the country where conditions are suitable and to support and collaborate with them.

Surrey U3A Network
Fetcham U3A belongs to the Surrey U3A Network which is a collaboration between many Surrey U3As and some of the U3As in adjacent areas of London. The Network has its own Website and runs Study Days at the Menuhin Hall, Stoke d'abernon, Cobham, Surrey KT11 3QQ, on the third Friday each month [Apart from December, January, July & August]. The study days cover a very wide range of topics and we look for highly recommended and very well qualified speakers. We are fortunate to have such a lovely venue for our Study Days and we can take up to one hundred and ninety members using just the stalls and slips, so we are only rarely fully booked, although advanced booking, using the forms available at the Monthly Meetings and on the Website, is required. The Network also runs regular meetings every six months to discuss issues of common interest to U3A committees and organises occasional events such as the Thirtieth Anniversary Celebration Exhibition at Denbies Wine Estate in November 2012.

The Network is a member of the South East U3A Forum which runs the Chichester Summer School at Chichester University along with regular conferences, seminars and workshops.

The Virtual U3A (vU3A), which went live in January 2009, is an online-only U3A, affiliated to the Third Age Trust. One of its principal aims is to provide the U3A experience for those who are rendered isolated in some way by circumstances or geography and unable to play a full part in a terrestrial U3A. More information is available on the public website www.vu3a.org where one can also apply for membership. Why not pay it a visit? And if you know of anyone who might benefit, please pass the information on.