Professor Pierre Vellas and colleagues of Toulouse University recognised the pool of experience, knowledge and intelligence of retired people. They launched U3A in 1973. Eight years later there were 60 of them in France. In the “French Model”, each U3A maintains strong links with a university and is based on attending lectures. His son, also named Pierre Vellas, is at present a U3A leader in France.
In the spring of 1981, Peter Laslett [left] and Nick Coni [right] discussed this development and wondered whether a similar venture would work in Cambridge, UK. To find out, a public meeting was held in the Guildhall in July, resulting in the advent of U3A in the UK. The “English Model” that they evolved, stresses that
“those who teach shall also learn and those who learn shall also teach”.
Since then U3A has spread world wide. Some indication of this spread can be seen here >.
It came to New Zealand in 1989 at Remuera in Auckland. There are now 83 U3As throughout the country, mostly espousing the “English Model”. It is believed that this model promotes increased personal learning, confidence and enjoyment by reading, research, discussions and field trips.