Originating in France in 1972, the University of the Third Age (U3A) is a world-wide organisation which has emerged more recently in Australia as a result of changing educational attitudes.
The University of the Third Age offers enrichment courses for people over the age of 50, in recognition of the need to provide educational services to a rapidly growing section of the community. One of the primary aims of the University of the Third Age is to encourage the pursuit of learning without reference to entry criteria, qualifications, assessments or rewards.
The University of the Third Age commenced in Hobart following a public meeting in December 1989, with representatives from the University of Tasmania, the Council of the Ageing, and Adult Education in attendance. The first classes were held at Jane Franklin College in April 1990, with financial membership totalling 87 people.
By 2001 there were several University of the Third Age groups in Tasmania, including:
- Hobart, with 650 members;
- Kingborough (established in 2000), with 200 members; and
The University of the Third Age has also established smaller centres at Geeveston and the Tasman Peninsula.
While each U3A centre is a separate entity, they are all run along similar lines with consistent fee structures.
The U3A program varies depending on the availability of staff, with approximately 45 subjects being offered each term. Courses cover a range of topics: humanities, social sciences, sciences, languages, art and music. Tutors and administrators support the program on a volunteer basis. The program’s focus is on enjoyment and understanding, rather than academic achievement.
- Clarence, with 200 members.