HISTORY OF THE U3A.
The University of the Third Age started in France at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Toulouse in 1972, and was known as the French Universite du Troisieme Age.
Back then it was guided by the local university - a principle firmly rejected when it reached Britain in 1981 at a conference led by Cambridge University academic Peter Laslett which called for a self-funded, self-governed, self-help network.
Supported by social entrepreneur Michael Young, director of the Centre for Policy on Ageing, Eric Midwinter, Age Concern's Dianne Norton and other academics, U3A attracted funding from the Nuffield Foundation and Christian and Voluntary Service.
The first branch formed in Cambridge in March 1982, and London and Huddersfield quickly followed. Stevenage, Harpenden, Merton, Yeovil, Totnes, Barnstaple and Saffron Walden signed up in 1983 - a year in which the first national U3A magazine and annual conference were also born, and the national Third Age Trust became a registered charity.
Grants and donations began to grow in number, as did the number of U3As across the UK.
In 2001, a Department for Education and Skills grant enabled the U3A to carry out a survey of members, which found the average age was 70.6, with only 6% under 60, 15% aged 60-64, 24% 65-69, 25% 70-74, 17% 75-79 and 13% aged over 80. Women vastly outnumbered men, with almost three quarters of members female, while it was a largely middle-class membership and most attendees had private pensions.
As 2013 drew to an end, the number of U3As in the UK topped the 900 mark, and Sheffield became the first U3A to have more than 3,000 members.