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The University of the Third Age

(Welwyn Hatfield)

Information about the University of the Third Age.

Click here (PDF) for a history of the Welwyn-Hatfield U3A, written in 2021.

The University of the Third Age originated in France, in Toulouse in 1972 and has since spread all over the world. The British organisation was founded in 1982 and had grown to a network of over 1,000 autonomous local U3As with a total membership of 430,000 at present.

The essential aim of U3A is to provide opportunities for continuing intellectual, cultural and aesthetic development for people no longer in full time paid employment. It is a self help organisation. It demands no qualifications for membership and it gives none. It emphasises the pleasure of learning for its own sake.

The Welwyn Hatfield U3A began in 1986 with thirty members and four study groups. We now have over 800 members and nearly sixty study groups. This places us above the average number but not among the giants. However, we have no buildings, no managers, and no staff. In fact we have no employees at all and our committee and officers are all volunteers.

Individual U3As like ours are completely independent, but there is a small National Office, the Third Age Trust, which gives help and advice on topics such as Insurance, Constitution and General Administration. They produce, several times a year, the "Third Age Matter" magazine, and "Sources", an Educational Bulletin. We circulate the former among our members. The latter is available, free, to any member who wishes to subscribe.

The National Office also runs a substantial Resource Centre which makes available Videos, Slides etc. on loan for individual Study Groups. There are National Meetings on specific topics, on-line Interactive Courses, also National Summer schools, covering a variety of subjects. It also provides insurance cover for U3A activities - see link on 'Study Groups' page for more information.


The weekly, Wednesday meetings are held at two venues; The Ludwick Family Centre, Hall Grove, Welwyn Garden City AL7 4PH and Breaks Manor Youth Centre, Link Drive, Hatfield, AL10 8TP. The doors open at 9.45 for coffee and chat; the lectures begin at 10.45. As these meetings are so popular, members are admitted on a first-come first served basis by registering at the desk and seating is limited to a certain number by Health and Safety Regulation in both halls.

We provide a richly varied programme of speakers; ranging from distinguished academics to our own members who have a tale to tell. Study Groups sometimes make a joint contribution and we mix in social events such as our Christmas party and Midsummer Garden Party. We are unusual in providing a weekly meeting; most U3As meet only monthly.

The study groups cover a wide range of academic, arts, crafts and recreational activities. Meetings are held, some weekly, some monthly, at a variety of venues including member's homes. Each has a coordinator, not necessarily the tutor, who should be approached if you are interested. Details of the groups are on the study group page of this website.

Most groups welcome new members but some, unfortunately, are limited in numbers by their accommodation or, particularly in the language groups, by a minimum ability requirement. If you don't find the group you want let us know. If the interest is there, we'll always try to start a new one.

There are also organised outings to theatres and places of interest. These are advertised at Wednesday meetings.


The essence of U3A is self-help, a sharing of knowledge and expertise acquired over the years so you must not be surprised to find us asking, once you've settled in, "What can you do?";

Of course, not everyone is a retired Professor of Rocket Science (please let us know if you are!) but there are many subjects where all a leader needs is a readiness to lead. Successful groups can comprise people sharing a common interest and learning together.

What about administration? Our committee is elected annually at the AGM but we are continually looking out for new faces to serve next time. We have an able Secretary, Membership Secretary and Treasurer but there are times when they could do with assistance.

There is a small sub-committee planning our programme of weekly meetings. They are always ready to take on a new member or two. We produce a Newsletter for all members at regular intervals and the Editor needs help and contributions.

Our outings to theatres and places of interest take a lot of planning and the organisers would welcome assistance.

We are fortunate in possessing a comprehensive set of media aids, including an LCD projector and screen and a radio mic audio system at each hall. We need people trained to know what plug goes in what socket, so come and learn.

If you haven't seen your niche yet, there is coffee to be made every Wednesday. With enough volunteers, you may only need to help once a term.

Web-site created by Roger Swaine.