The U3A movement began in the 1970s in Toulouse as a Summer School for retired people. Similar groups quickly came into being in other French towns and the idea spread rapidly from France to other countries. It arrived in the UK in 1978, and in 1980 an International Body was established.
The French model was centred on mainstream universities. It was felt by the founding members in the UK that there were drawbacks to this model, which said, in effect, that a U3A could only operate if there was a mainstream university nearby. It was also academically based, and it was felt in the UK that too much power could rest with professional bodies.
The founding members agreed that it should be possible to form a local U3A anywhere where there was a sufficient number of like-minded people; that the scope of the U3A should be a broad as possible; and that it should be managed by the people themselves. So the self-help model was born. By the end of 1983, eight U3As were officially registered in the UK, and the U3A movement was on its way. It has now spread to over 30 countries, as far apart as Chile and Australia. (The Harrow U3A in the UK tries to maintain a full list.)
The Costa Blanca
Two of our founder members, the late Jackie Johnson and Jean Laikin, both were well-known figures in Calpe, recognised the need to facilitate activities for Jubilados in and around Calpe. An open meeting was held on 7th March 2002 in a local restaurant. Invited was a friend of Jackie’s, a U3A member in England, to speak about the benefits of the “University of the Third Age.” There was enthusiastic support; a steering group was formed; and people came forward offering to lead groups.
There was a meeting on 14th April 2002 at which around fifty people joined as members. Five proposed groups were begun: Computers, Discussion, Spanish Lessons, Dining at Home and Painting. The first AGM was on 14th November 2002, at which Mary Anderton was elected as our first President. Lisa and Chuck Svoboda wrote the Constitution, eventually accepted by the Generalitat Valencia, and after many re-writes the U3A Calpe was born.
The good news quickly spread through the Costa Blanca; there are now U3As in many surrounding towns: Dénia, Jávea, Jalón (Vall del Pop), Oliva, Torrevieja, Campello, Marina Baixa and Teulada-Moriara.