How it all started
U3A was launched in Toulouse, France in 1973 with the aim of presenting a programme of university-based continuing education as well as stimulating those in the later stages of life. By 1981 it had spread to England where it evolved as a community-based system of independent self-run groups. The concept arrived in New Zealand in 1989 with the first local group launched through the University Of Canterbury Department Of Continuing Education.
Soaring demand led to a second one starting in 1996, U3A Christchurch, our group. The idea proved popular and other new groups were formed. By the end of 1996, a number of monthly meetings had been held, several small groups were established, and there was an end of year party. St Matthews Church Hall was also chosen as a venue. The first committee reported that learning to manage a U3A was a challenging but enjoyable experience, "the year when the committee learnt how little we really knew about running a U3A."
Some years later, because other Christchurch-based U3A’s were being formed, there was some disquiet with the name "U3A Christchurch" so the group decided to add the words "North West". There are now twelve U3A's in Christchurch, with five more across Canterbury.
Further information on these, and other groups throughout New Zealand, can be found at the U3A Canterbury Network's website: www.u3anetcant.nz