U3A has begun in Penicuik

click for Penicuik & District U3A Homepage


Penicuik & District U3A beginnings here.

the inaugural meeting on 23 March 2009 in Penicuik Town Hall


Exhibition in Penicuik Town Hall: 21 & 23 March 2009:

About U3A

U3A stands for the University of the Third Age, which is a self-help organisation for people no longer in full time employment providing educational, creative and leisure opportunities in a friendly environment.  It consists of local U3As all over the UK, which are charities in their own right and are run entirely by volunteers.

Local U3As are learning cooperatives which draw upon the knowledge, experience and skills of their own members to organise and provide interest groups in accordance with the wishes of the membership.   The teachers learn and the learners teach. Between them U3As offer the chance to study over 300 different subjects in such fields as art, languages, music, history, life sciences, philosophy, computing, crafts, photography and walking.

A typical U3A has about 250 members but could be as small as 12 and as large as 2000.


There is no accreditation or validation

and no assessments or qualifications to be gained.

The U3A approach to learning is – learning for pleasure.


History of U3A

The University of the Third Age began in France.  In 1972 in Toulouse, a successful summer school for retired people prefaced the very first Université du Troisième Age.  This was quickly followed by programmes in other towns close to Toulouse and the notion spread rapidly, not only in France.  Such was the take-up of the idea in other countries that an international body known as the International Association of Universitiés of the Third Age (AIUTA) was established as early as 1980.


Contacts with the founder members of U3A in the UK were made in 1978 and these were maintained and built on over the next three or four years.


The French model centred around universities.  A committee of retired people negotiated a contract with its university for the use of its facilities and tuition.  Our founder members although greatly impressed by the achievement in France and stimulated by the magnificence of the concept, felt there were drawbacks to this version.  In effect a U3A could only operate if there was a conveniently situated university. Moreover what was offered was traditional academic fare and too much power could rest with the professional body.  .

It was felt by Peter Laslett, Eric Midwinter and Michael Young that it should be possible to form a local U3A anywhere there was a sufficient number of like-minded people; that the curriculum should be as broad as possible and that it should be managed by the people themselves.

The self-help model was born.


In 1981, Peter Laslett hosted a meeting in Cambridge, attended by educationalists and scientists, which discussed and lent support to the notion of bringing the U3A ideal to Britain.  This was quickly followed by a workshop organised by Eric Midwinter to which anybody who had shown an interest in the idea was invited.  These meetings led to an application to the Nuffield Foundation for financial aid and the decision to hold a public meeting in Cambridge.  The meeting was judged a success, a view reinforced by the request from BBC Radio 4 the next day for an interview about the events of the previous evening.

The effect of the first ‘U3A’ broadcast was amazing – over 400 letters arrived in a few days.  The grant application was also successful and it was determined to hold an experimental Easter school in Cambridge in March 1982.  75 people enrolled, the classes were mainly in traditional subjects but with considerable scope for discussion and participation.  By the finish, a Cambridge U3A was a certainty and a decision was taken to form a national committee.  A U3A in London was also on the cards.  The national committee performed a dual function; it was both a small propagandist machine trying to persuade others to start U3As and a hub for keeping the growing number of groups in some form of meaningful contact.


Gradually U3A groups were born in different parts of the country; Yeovil, West Midlands, Nottingham, Oxford, Wakefield, Barnstaple.  In  1983, a second seminar was held and 22 delegates turned up representing localities where U3As had either started or were under consideration.   It was tantamount to a national conference and local U3As were invited to become formal members of the national body, which was registered as both a company limited by guarantee and a charity in October 1983.

By the end of 1983, eight U3As were officially registered and the U3A movement was on its way.


is about to start.

the inaugural meeting will be held on Monday 23 March

at 2pm in Penicuik Town Hall


click for current Penicuik & District U3A Homepage


Over 70 people came earlier to a very successful introductory meeting in January in Penicuik Town Hall convened by Bill Fearnley of Penicuik & District Community Council.


Interests in:

A)  Art, Crafts, Art Appreciation

B) Books & writing

C) Computing, Science, Internet, Film

D) Photography

E) Energies, sport & meditation

F) Languages

G) Gardens and Food Growing

H) History – Local, General, Archaeology

L) Lunch Clubs & visits

M) Music

O) Outdoors -Walking, Cycling, birdwatching


Interest groups recorded to date


Arts General 12: DM EF EG UH RS BF A+MM ST NL MS GM

Languages 11: MS EG RS MW A+MM ST NI AK WM GS

Theatre 10: MD JD CJ CK MW A+MM BD PS GS

History  9: GP RP TW A+MM AB WB SH LC

Literature 8: DM MC ET PM A+MM ST NL

Computing & Internet 7: RP EF EG RM WM ME HA

Meeting for lunch 7: JD MD CK MW TV HA PC

Birdwatching & identification 6: MS GS GM ME CG GS

Crafts 6: JD MW G+KH SH HM

Archaeology 5: FB JG CJ AB GS

Photography 5: MS RM C+RH EB

Art Appreciation 4: GP JG PM WR

Gardening 4: MS FB MC EB

Local History 4: UH RK CG WM

Music 4: MC G+RH WM

Buildings & Architecture 3: RP EG CK

Science 3: ND BF MR

Visits to Museums & Exhibitions 3: FB CJ CK

Visits to interesting places 3: CJ HA PS

Creative writing 2: ST PW

Drawing 2: SH PW

French 2: WM GS

Keep fit 2: CK GH

Natural environment 2: C+RH

Spanish 2: MS QS

Technology 2: C+RH


Badminton 1: MR

Bridge 1: GS

Calligraphy 1: SH

Chess 1: MR

Churches 1: EG

Classics 1: FB

Community action 1: RK

Computer Hardware 1: WM

Current affairs 1: RM

Environment 1: UH

Family History 1: CJ

Films 1: RK

Garden History & Visits 1: GP

Industrial archaeology 12: RP

Making places better 1: RK

Metalworking 1: RP

Old Graveyards & Inscriptions 1: FB

Painting 1: EB

Painting from nature 1: PW

Painting in watercolours 1: CK

Philosophy 1:  DM

Public speaking 1: MD

Relaxation 1: GH

Research  1: SH

Scottish country dancing 1: AM

Scottish history 1: MS

Scrabble 1: AM

Singing 1: MD

Swimming 1: CK

Mind and Spirit


the inaugural meeting was held on Monday 23 March

at 2pm in Penicuik Town Hall



Over 70 people came earlier to a very successful introductory meeting in January in Penicuik Town Hall convened by Bill Fearnley of Penicuik & District Community Council.  The essentials of U3A, and the first steps we need to take to start up in Penicuik, were explained by U3A’s Robina Hutton.



The University of the Third Age


TUESDAY 20th JANUARY 2009 at 2pm




Around 55 of those attending indicated a definite interest in taking part in U3A.  Of these, 21 volunteered to organise local start-up and U3A activities, forming a steering committee which met 3 days later and is now working towards the inaugural meeting for Penicuik’s U3A on March 23rd 2009.  Until then the group can be contacted at Penicuik Town Hall Open House every Saturday 10am-2pm.


Chair: Margot Daru-Elliott  ~  Vice-chair: Devi Marshall


23/01/09) Press Release Penicuik’s U3A launched


The Penicuik & District U3A is launched.  There was an outstanding attendance on 20 January at the Introductory meeting of Penicuik’s University of the Third Age (U3A).  Over 70 people attended at the event which was held under the auspices of the Penicuik & District Community Council.  The principal speaker was Robina Hutton, Scottish U3A organizer.

The Penicuik & District U3A, like its counterparts elsewhere in Scotland, will be an autonomous, self-help organization run by the voluntary efforts of its members

About 50 of the audience signed up immediately with an indication of the "personal interest" courses which they would wish to be set up.  21 of these have formed an initial Steering Committee with a chairman, secretary, membership secretary and treasurer identified.

There is much to do to get the initiative off the ground – a Constitution, a Bank Account for a national U3A start-up grant, initial publicity.......  The first meeting of the Steering Committee was held on 23 January.

If you want to keep abreast of the development of this exciting initiative, or want to find out what interest groups will be available – or indeed want to suggest areas of interest to you which could become involved -  please get in touch

End WF/RH 23 Jan 09




Activities will take place during the day.  At the inaugural meeting at Penicuik Town Hall on 23 March 2009 there was a chance to add suggestions for groups to the list and discuss arrangements with other potential group members.


There will be afternoon open meetings of the new U3A each month.

 See more details of initial monthly speakers at the inaugural meeting

including Dr Brian Moffat on Soutra Medieval Hospital

and Prof Geoff Palmer on Scotland & Jamaica








click for Penicuik & District U3A Homepage


Penicuik & District U3A beginnings here.


U3A   U3A in Scotland