u3a research database

Welcome to the u3a research database

This database supports research and shared learning of u3a in the UK by collating and making available details of projects undertaken by u3a, mostly locally, either on their own initiative, or as part of studies conducted by academic institutions, or jointly with other organisations. The database is itself a learning project, originally set up in 2015/16 and now in its second version. There are currently 1082 projects recorded in the database. You can search by project description by clicking on the spyglass at the top of pages or going straight to this page. There are other options for browsing the database from here.

To submit details of a project for inclusion in the database, either contact the administrator or use this form.

Recent projects

Astronomy networkThe Andromeda Galaxy

A national u3a network has been set up for members interested in astronomy and spaceflight. It is hoped it will become an online 'club' where members can share information. Given the breadth of the subject area, the work and the supporting site are broken down into separate topics such as cosmology, astronomy, space missions and exploration, the night sky and the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence.

English language teaching for Ukrainians

Thornbury u3a has set up and run English language teaching for Ukrainian refugees in the area. The opportunity to do this arose because a local member has a TEFL qualification and there are facilities (including halls for teaching) and other support for refugees in the area. The project was so successful that it has been taken over by the local council's learning services department. The u3a are continuing to support by providing classes in conversational English.

Judgements and cognitive abilities

Members of London u3a are working with Oxford University on a study about how we make judgements about other people’s personalities, cognitive abilities and thoughts. Research data is taken from participants online and involves answering questions after watching videos produced by the study designers.

Danish influence on the English language

Three midlands-based u3a, Northampton, Kimber and Stourbridge, are working together on a project exploring the "Danish Creolisation of English" hypothesis, examining how the persistent influence of Danish language patterns affected changes in English hundreds of years after the end of the Danelaw in England.

Research database

This database is itself a u3a learning project! Having been set up in 2015/16 it has recently been upgraded and will continue to evolve and support shared learning.

High Street Project

This large project started in September 2020 and has three tiers of activity: surveying local shopping streets, taking photos, and identifying a local idea or ideas to explore further.

Participants take photos from their local High Street and upload these to a central website where they are collated and displayed. This enables members to trace both recent and longer term changes and supports involvement with local Neighbourhood Plans as well as gathering reminiscences of the shops of our childhood, art, and sketching and making guided walks.

U3a in the Time of Corona

In April 2020, Subject advisers Jo Livingston and Jennifer Simpson began gathering diary entries from u3a members around the UK. This ‘Diary Project’ resulted in a book, ‘u3a in the Time of Corona’, drawn from members’ contributions describing what turned out to be the first lockdown in 2020. It includes efforts to get a supermarket delivery and how to manage without a haircut, as well as how our members filled all that spare time and tried to keep the u3a going. After the first print run sold out, a second printing has been done and can be bought for £10 from this link Diary Book

our postal pensioners

Our 1901 Postal Pensioners led by Kings College London

In October 2020, 47 U3A members from South West England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland started working towards a collective biography of 96 pensioners who retired from the Post Office in 1901, the first year that a full census is available for England, Scotland, and Ireland. Listen to the podcast Postal Pensioners Podcast on the British Association for Local History website, Series 1 episode 9. U3a get a great mention from 27 mins onwards!

The project began in October 2020 and finished in May 2021.
As well as leading, guiding and collating the research, the team from KCL also arranged a season of lunchtime talks for u3a members via Zoom. These talks were extremely well attended and greatly appreciated by u3a members.

Happiness across the Ages

Lessons and tips from a collaborative, intergenerational, interdisciplinary research project on happiness devised by Exeter University and Exeter u3a

As well as background and a description of the project, the booklet contains a useful toolkit that can be applied to all project planning and implementation

Download the Booklet Happiness Project

Guardian Foundation Pitman Diaries transcription project – from article by Margaret Derrick

The Guardian Shorthand Project officially finished at the end of 2020. It involved translating the shorthand diaries of the Guardian’s Africa Correspondent from the 1960s, which is a very specialised skill set! Despite the lockdown arriving in the opening months of the project, the u3a volunteers made great inroads into this area of research and many have decided to continue with it in their own right.

Cary Ellison Theatre programmes

Cary Ellison project

Cary Ellison was a talent spotter who worked for Spotlight magazine and as part of his work he went on twice yearly tours of repertory performances around the country in order to find up and coming actors, directors and plays. The programmes of these productions, heavily annotated by Ellison, are now at Kingston University. U3a members researched the places visited by Cary Ellison around the UK and expanded the detail of Kingston’s contextual knowledge for the Cary Ellison collection.

The project went into hibernation in 2020. If you want further news about this or other theatre-studies related projects please email slp@u3a.org.uk