U3A Tauranga -The Beginnings

In the 1960s France had no continuing education, so it passed legislation to allow the University of Toulouse to found what they called 'The Universite of Troisieme Age' or UTA. The Third Age;' became the European term for retirement; the First and Second Ages being childhood and working life. The French system used the university buildings and its lecturers.


England 1980. Trinity College, Cambridge had been funded to research the education of the elderly in England. This task fell to three men, all Cambridge Dons and all approaching retirement. They were: Eric Midwinter, a distinguished educator, Peter Laslett, an eminent socialist and Michael Young, later to become Sir Michael Young . (Laslett and Young were responsible for the introduction of 'The Open University' to Britain.)

Having heard of the French UTA, Laslett and Midwinter visited France to determine for themselves the suitability of the system for their purpose. Their conclusion was that although an excellent system for the requirement of France it was too elitist. "Second agers, mostly men, deciding what third agers should learn" A further, very important consideration was the fact that the French system required university personnel and buildings to accomplish its purpose, meaning that only participants who lived close to these facilities could attend. This effectively prohibited a very large section of the retired population from becoming members. The three Cambridge men knew that older people were perfectly capable of teaching each other and deciding for themselves what they wanted to learn. With this in mind the three set about organising the first English U3A in Cambridge. It is this mutual learning principle, forming a learning cooperative, which marks the U3A movement today.

U3A is the abbreviation for University of the Third Age as adopted by the French. In New Zealand we refer to it in the abbreviated form, U3A, to differentiate it from the New Zealand degree-granting universities which we are not.


Three things influenced the founding of U3A " The rise in numbers of the elderly section of the population as health care improved. " The wish to provide for educational, cultural and social needs of this section. " The wish to do this through self and mutual help with no external aid. Those three learned men arrived at some conclusions that have since shaped U3A's all over the world. " It is a self-help learning cooperative. There is no qualifying criteria or exams of any sort. " Participants choose their own study subject. Those who teach, also learn. " The organisation is totally voluntary. U3A's everywhere use the same model that we in Tauranga use. For example, there are 150 U3A's in Australia and 28,300 in China!

"From little acorns, oak trees grow!" The social aspect of U3A cannot be overstated, everyone is welcome and members are friendly and supportive. The emphasis is on learning, enjoyment and fun!


U3A comes to Tauranga.

U3A was first mentioned by Roy Hayward in an article in the Katikati Times on 30 August 1994. "Is Katikati ready for a University of the Third Age?" he asked.



I don't know what happened to the idea of U3A being started in Katikati, but on1st February1995, in the Bay News, Roy asked people to contact him if they had an interest in forming a Tauranga/Mt Maunganui U3A.


The concept of retired people keeping their minds active and expanding their knowledge caught on and on Wednesday, 22 February 1995, the Bay News reported that '25 people had attended a public meeting resulting in the formation of a steering committee to see the idea gets established'.


According to the first Minutes taken, a steering committee was formed with Roy Hayward, President, Marie Frendrup: Secretary/Treasurer; Publicity Officer: Juliet Rice; Vice President: June Isherwood; and others: Betty Clethero, Chris McDonald, Jim Wilkinson, Jean Beer, Jack Lee, Pam Hayward, and Joy Speedy. In the weeks that followed many committee meetings were held and gradually U3A Tauranga started to take shape. Letters asking for funding were circulated (and letters of thanks were sent when we received some); the yearly subscription was set; (it has not changed much since then), name tags, members registration and information forms were designed; notices to newspapers and flyers advertising U3A were sent. Venues for the first public meeting were discussed and St Enoch's lounge, 16th Avenue, Tauranga, chosen.

Organisational kits for groups were prepared; a poster was designed and taken to various places to advertise the meeting; morning tea was set at $1 per person On 17 March 1995, the U3A Inaugural Public Meeting,Tauranga was held to 'establish group activities'. Names were taken and groups were chosen. Dr Joy Drayton, Past Chancellor, Waikato University was guest speaker. Sylvia Arcus from Takapuna U3A also agreed to speak about her involvement with U3A's international organisation, the history of U3A in New Zealand and some points re the setting up of a U3A. It is interesting to note here that her advice was to 'do something different -brainpower first and social second'. But her most important point was this: "It is very important to meet at a general meeting each month so that the people feel they belong to U3A."

Gradually, as people in the Bay realised how interesting and stimulating the U3A organisation was, more people joined and groups were formed. Archaeology, Calligraphy, Entomology, Finance, Literature, Psychology, Geology were some of the first. During the following week, a meeting of the committee was called for the purpose of preparing a newsletter for circulation. 50 copies were posted to 'people who have filled in forms'. Our first ever newsletter! U3A Tauranga was growing. At a general meeting on 26 May 1995, with 40 members attending, history, languages, philosophy and walking were added to the list of group suggestions. A computer course at Bethlehem College was mooted and started a few days later.


On the 30 June 1995, finances stood at $299.74 and convenors were asked to mention subscriptions to their groups as many had not paid. Sending accounts to those was considered. In July, Roy Hayward spoke to the general meeting about the possibility of members giving a mini-talk (fireside-chat style) each month. He emphasised the importance of social interaction at morning tea time when people can join groups, pay subs, register etc.

On 17 November 1995, there was still only 40 members, but all very enthusiastic. An article in the newspaper headlined "Fledgling university expanding" where Secretary Marie Frendrup commented she expected more people to join, "but like the children of today, a lot of people in this age group, have got used to being entertained." Tickets were sold for the first U3A Tauranga Christmas celebration to be held at the Otumoetai Trust on 8th December 1995. In the New Year on 26 January 1996, it was suggested the financial year be 1st January to 31 December to avoid confusion re subs due. A $10 petrol voucher was chosen as the standard reward for the people who agree to come to our meetings to speak. A committee member suggested general meetings be bi-monthly with a social meeting in between. (Whatever happened to that concept?)


The first U3A Annual General Meeting was held on 21 June 1996. Our Constitution was adopted on 27 September,1996, and on the 1st October 1996 U3A Tauranga was Incorporated under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908.

Since that first AGM members have been involved in some memorable events, one notable one was the conference in March 2002 entitled "Pacific Paradise in the 21st Century". This was a three-day affair and was extremely successful. Ken Rose was the Conference Committee Chairman. As an organisation that has members with wide and varying talents, we have had some very enjoyable social functions over the years. End-of-year barbeques; trips to various parts of New Zealand; treks, mountain climbing, boat trips. We had art exhibition in 2003; musical groups who either sang or played for us, and lots of other activities.

We participated in the promotional 'Seniors Day Out' in 2008. It was so successful we gained 100 members. It certainly helped the membership list. We had 50 groups at that time, but by the end of 2009, we had 73 groups.


In March 2011 we held an art auction to raise funds for Christchurch after its devastating earthquake. Although we did not get the support we would have liked, we managed to raise nearly $3,000. We also put together a Book of Remembrance, with messages, pictures, poems from groups, showing support for that beleaguered city. This was sent to the Mayor of Christchurch.


Trying to gauge the feeling of members towards Tauranga U3A, in 2012 the committee circulated a survey to all members. As we had lately found it difficult to drum up support for different functions, one of the questions was "Do you want to attend Mid-year or Christmas parties?" It wasn't surprising when we got a negative answer. The committee, therefore, reluctantly decided not to run any in the future. After being part of U3A for every year since 1995, these enjoyable occasions at Christmas, are now part of U3A's history.


Tauranga U3A has moved with the times and one of the major changes over the last couple of years has been the committee's reliance on the computer. It has certainly made the administration of U3A so much easier. On-line banking for payment of subscriptions is now available and when the survey showed 80% of members had access to email, the newsletter went on-line. We have an extensive website which is full of information, pictures, and articles.


This year, U3A Tauranga Incorporated is celebrating its 20tth Anniversary. Sadly, many of the original steering committee members and foundation members are no longer with us, but we must thank them sincerely for their efforts and enthusiasm in forming a U3A in Tauranga which now results in over 700 members who are able to choose from 80 plus groups, one of the biggest U3A's in New Zealand. Keeping active is part of remaining healthy as we grow old.

Many people take up physical activity. Keeping the mind active is just as important for keeping ourselves alert. Recent research findings clearly indicate the positive medical benefits of doing this. 'Life Enrichment through knowledge' is a phrase U3A members must believe in. Why else would we join such a like-minded group of people.


Editor's Note: I have searched through the archives as carefully as I can to find the information to make this history possible, but the lack of surnames in the early Minutes and written texts, has made it a researcher's minefield. No doubt I'll get 'blown up' when I'm told I've missed someone! If I have got details or names wrong, omitted people, places or details I apologise wholeheartedly. It was not intentional. Angela Dold. 27 March 2015