500 Beacons: the U3A Story


by Eric Midwinter
This book is out of print but we can make it available as an emailable, printable A4 265 page PDF for £5.00.

It is also available for Kindle. Just click on the link below for the Kindle option.


The origins, development, current position & future aspirations of the University of the Third Age in the UK. A Postscript updates the story to 2014.

The British University of the Third Age was launched in 1982 to provide a network of self-mobilising learning groups for older people. It has proved to be one of the most successful exercises in social co-operation, radical adult education and older age citizenship since World War II. It now has 140,00 active members in well over 500 U3A groups – the 500 Beacons of the title – widely spread across the United Kingdom, each offering, under the national umbrella of the Third Age Trust, intellectual, cultural and social stimulus for and by Third Agers. This is the tale of the origins, the development, the current position and the future aspirations of this unique pioneering of the principles of mutual aid. While closely analysing the national and regional elements in this dramatic success story, the book’s focus is also on the many local stories of individuals battling to make the U3A ideal work amid the homes and streets of their own town or community.

The author is Dr Eric Midwinter, the distinguished social historian and social policy analyst, himself the surviving one of the three ‘Founding Fathers’ of U3A in the UK –   the legendary social entrepreneur, Michael Young and the famed historian and demographer, Peter Laslett, being his fellows – who had the temerity to challenge the British educational and political establishment with the disruptive notion that retired people had the wit, experience and energy to run their own social and educational affairs. Although the primary appeal of this definitive study will be to those intimately involved with U3A, it has much of interest for all those concerned with continuing education, community development and the rightful place of older people in society today.

“500 Beacons is a massive piece of research, meticulously conducted but simply and entertainingly presented.” – F. Beckett, U3A News

ISBN 978-1-898576-81-5     2004. 320 pages 1st edition 2004

KINDLE EDITION ISBN 978-1-898576-41-9 2014

Price: £5.00
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