Adelaide U3A history

Mirrors into Windows

‘The purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows

Many of our members have shared in the history of U3A Adelaide’s devel­op­ment over the last 20 years.  This booklet contains some memories of those times, from the view­points of several office bearers, tutors and office volun­teers.  It offers some back­ground to the formation of the U3A concept and the start up of our own, and an overview of the activ­ities during the first years. 

This “univer­sity” has been providing adult courses for people in the third age (the age of retire­ment), in an organ­isa­tion based on the medieval univer­sity idea of students gathering around scholars with a desire to under­stand the world around them, rather than the modern aim of obtaining a degree. 

The U3A movement had begun in Toulouse, France in 1973, offering courses in the human­ities and natural sciences (at moderate fees) to retired people, with tutors teaching volun­tarily, after retire­ment from a life of school or univer­sity teaching or profes­sional life in the human­ities or sciences.  Thus the member­ship fee would be within the means of most retired people and there would be no further cost – beyond items such as language textbooks and small charges for photocopying. 

The twenty years of our U3A date from the 28 January 1986 public meeting attended by about 150 enthu­si­astic potential students and tutors.  The fledgling U3A began with courses in, among other places, the Burnside Community Centre,  the Adelaide College of Advanced Education and the State Library.  It has moved from those temporary facil­ities to Franklin Street, Currie Street, and now to Pulteney Street.* 

Membership has grown from the original 160 inter­ested parti­cipants and 6 courses, to 855 members and 176 courses in 2004. 

The variety of courses has expanded to cover many science-based areas of interest, in addition to the languages, history and liter­ature of the early years.  Some examples show just how much our U3A members are keeping up with the current issues, as they consider the implic­a­tions of genetic modi­fic­a­tion and the complex problems of the Murray-Darling river system.  Computing courses meet our needs for under­standing such a major aspect of today’s world (and of keeping up with grandchildren!). 

Many of the courses offered at U3A are enjoyed for their sheer delight, for general interest or for ways of ensuring our continued health.  So, the music, the mah jong, the art and archi­tec­ture, the walks around Adelaide and its gardens, the yoga — all help us keep both mind and body as active as possible.

The booklet brings memories, too, of names familiar to many of us: office bearers, tutors, office volun­teers and other members.