Paignton U3A

Paignton Branch of the University of the Third Age

U3A Background

What is U3A?

U3A means "University of the Third Age". A U3A is an organisation offering educational, creative and leisure activities to older people not in full-time, gainful employment. Members organise their own activities and use their skills and knowledge to form self-help groups.

No qualifications are required and none are awarded.

A U3A has "members" not "students" but it is a university in the original sense of the word: a collective of people devoted to learning. U3As receive no government funding.


The seeds of 'Lifelong Learning for Older People' were sown at a Summer School of the Université du Troisième Age held in Toulouse in 1972. This led within a year to the formation of the 'International Association of U3As' (AIUTA). whichsoon became worldwide.

In the UK, unlike in continental Europe and elsewhere, there was not much interest shown in the idea of U3A by the established universities and other learning institutions. In 1980 a group of interested people met in Cambridge and decided to try out the principle of self-help study groups and found that it worked. The founders realised that third-agers themselves had the skills to organise and teach in their own autonomous learning groups. The principle adopted was not "they teach us" but rather "we learn with one another".

In 1982 came the creation of The Third Age Trust, a registered charity and limited company which is the national representative body for the U3A movement in the UK. You will find a link to the Trust's website on the "Links" page. In other parts of the world, development has been more dependent on existing centres of learning and the resulting U3A courses have been integrated into a local academic curriculum with formal exams etc. The independence from the educational establishment which we have in UK provides a non-competitive, stress-free environment in which to learn. In the past AIUTA did not approve of the British 'self-help' model but now accepts it.

Devon Link

Paignton takes part in Devon Link activities.

Devon Link comprises the following U3A Groups:    Dart Valley, Teign, Torbay, Brixham, Exeter, East Dartmoor & Paignton

Local U3As

According to The Third Age Trust, in August 2007 there were 640 local U3As throughout the United Kingdom with a total membership of over 186000. Each local U3A develops its own character according to local needs.