Swanland U3A, along with all other U3As, sets out to provide stimulating activities for those who are retired from full-time employment and no longer have direct parental responsibilities. There are over 60 interest groups both large and small, including family history, walking, languages, art and literature, yoga and photography.
Thursday lectures are normally held on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month (except August), at 2.00pm in St. Barnabas' Church Hall where talks are given on various subjects and coffee, tea and biscuits after the lecture. Entry is free to members while a guest pays £1.00.
Currently there are around 620 members and there are no plans to limit membership numbers. Annual membership is £10.00 and this includes the Thursday lectures. Some of the interest groups make an additional small charge to cover expenses.
Members receive a National U3A newsletter 5 times a year and a Swanland U3A newsletter three times a year.
'The U3A started in France. This was because 'adults' of a certain age had a minimum means of further education and so in 1973 a highly rated Gerontology (The Study of the Social, Psychological and Biological aspects of ageing.) Course, run by Toulouse University of Social Sciences exclusively for local retired people, led to the formation of the first U3A. the organisation 'Les Universities du Troisiemme Age' (University of the Third Age). This was to provide means for adults, particularly graduates who wanted to carry on learning in retirement, and most of these groups were associated with local Universities. In time the original focus on older people began to change and local government became involved so the outlook broadened to encompass many aspects of life such as early retirees, housewives and the unemployed.
The movement started in England in the 1981 in Cambridge but the emphasis being on 'Self Help' basis, realising that experts of every kind retire, therefore there should be no need for the members to have to rely on paid or unpaid Second Age teachers except where specialist qualifications are needed. The idea spread throughout the UK, in England there are now over 1000 U3A's, over 375,000 members and at the same time it also went worldwide to countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Italy and many more and in 1998, U3A Online was the world-first virtual University of the Third Age delivering online learning via the Internet.