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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Do something brilliant today with u3a


Learning never stops, says Hugh S Munro

Ah, life after work...

Do you picture no clock-watching, having duvet days, trips away, spending time with people you care about, or maybe that hobby you so enjoy? Bliss. 

Chances are u3a isn’t on the bucket list. Nor is it in the top ten things you plan to do when or if you’re no longer working full time. Yet for just 50p a week to join, these self-help learning and recreational hubs offer an amazing range of benefits. Just ask 430,000 u3a members across the UK applying its ‘learn, laugh, live’ motto first hand.   

Learning just for fun

Let’s start with being able to take your pick of all those interest groups, be it art appreciation to wine tasting. Members are free to sign up to any group or all of them. People can often choose whether to meet up in person or online. There are no assessments, exams or qualifications in u3as. People simply go at their own pace and have fun as they explore different subjects together. So if you want to learn a language, try a different craft or practice a new skill, u3a is the place to look.

Then there’s the pleasure of meeting new people. In addition to all the groups and activities, there’s plenty of company available on u3a trips, visits, outings and events. The more studious can try a nationwide shared research project or summer school. Monthly meetings showcase a variety of engaging speakers and lively discussions. Members can invite their friends and family along, and enjoy a cuppa and a chat.  Online viewers take part in the main conversation but bring their own refreshments! 

40 years on and still going strong

Cambridge u3a (then called University of the Third Age) was set up first in the UK in 1982. Being part of an interest group provides a stimulating, friendly place in which to learn. Each u3a is run by the members for the members who are all volunteers. There’s no lower or upper age limit for membership. To join, the only pre-requisite is not being employed full time anymore. If this is the case through a disability, caring responsibilities, part time work or retirement, then u3a could be just the thing for you.

Word of mouth is often how people hear about u3a, and then they bring their friends. Members use their innate skills to help others learn. You don’t need to be an expert to lead an interest group. Since the arrival of the internet followed by social media platforms, u3as advertise themselves online, or via Facebook and Twitter. You can find your nearest u3a at:

Times have changed in other ways. Four decades ago, employees were given a gold watch for 30-40 years long service with the same employer. Now the trend is to change jobs every two to three years and ideally to finish one’s working life at 50. Yet today’s u3a movement affords the same great learning opportunities and value for money to anyone stopping work. Members continue to share their time, talents and training.

To mark u3a’s ruby anniversary, we’ve clips of members having the time of their life.  You can too.  Have a go and ‘Do something brilliant today’:

Hugh S Munro is lead, u3a in Scotland pre-retirement project; and chair, Penicuik & District u3a.



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