Senior students of the Liège “Third Age University” in Wallonia will be left without any premises following the local government’s decision to bulldoze their building to make way for upgrades to the campus, according to broadcaster RTBF.
The university offers classes in history, English, German, photography, and even bridge to students between 50 and 99 years old. Students regularly attend classes and socialise as part of a growing international interest in later-life education.
The idea of “Third Age” universities was first launched by Professor Vellas, a professor of international law at the University of Toulouse, in 1973. Quickly becoming a big hit, he went on to help set up the International Association of Universities of the Third Age (AIUTA) to facilitate the spread of senior education across France and Belgium.
According to the Liège “Third Age University”, the objective of third age education is to “take an interest in the problems of ageing, both in terms of health, social relations and continuing education.”
The Liège facility was initiated in 1976 at the behest of Edouard Close, local alderman of social affairs, alongside the rector of the University of Liège. It is the largest of its kind in the French-speaking world. It until recently occupied a premise within the covered market of Liège, which was renovated by the university.
Much of the university experience is catered specifically to the needs of the elderly. The current location has strong public transport access, free parking, and has been in the same location for decades.
Students told RTBF that if the university were to move significantly, many would be put off attending classes due to mobility issues and other hesitance.
No information has yet been given as to where the classes will be relocated. According to the testament of a student of the university, the accepted idea is that the city plans to renovate the surrounding area and move to a nearby building.
There are still fears that the facilities will not be sufficient to accommodate the nearly 3,000 students, many of whom have been attending the university for years.