Judith Bunting (Natural Sciences (Physical) 1979) was in the first intake of female undergraduate students at Fitzwilliam. She is now a Liberal Democrat MEP and is the Fitzwilliam Society President for 2019/20.
What was it like being in the first intake of Fitzwilliam women?
It was a brilliant experience! It helped that there was a good crowd of us, I believe about 40. The existing students didn’t quite know what had hit them, and for the first few days you couldn’t approach a door without at least three people popping up to try to open it for you, which as an 18-year-old was quite funny. Our particular year was totally unfazed and unfussed, and many of us had come from co-educational schools. Fitz was always a very positive and enabling college, encouraging us to take part in a wide range of activities and to push ourselves. It was a very positive experience.
Are you still in touch with anyone from the 1979 group?
Yes, I am still in touch with a handful of good friends from Fitzwilliam. It’s been great to reconnect in the last 10 years through the Fitzwilliam Society, which I highly recommend. It is definitely worth trying to attend the get togethers, either the drinks, London Dinner or the Reunion Weekend.
Why did you choose Fitzwilliam?
I went to a grammar school in Peterborough, and the idea of going to Cambridge had not crossed my mind. Two things happened to change this. The first was Fitzwilliam decided to go co-ed, and they sent someone to visit my school to talk to us about applying. That visit changed my life. Sadly, I don’t remember who came, but I would not have applied to Cambridge if it weren’t for that visit. Secondly, the A-Level entry was just beginning.
What difference did it make attending Fitzwilliam as opposed to elsewhere?
Cambridge is a very varied and tolerant place. There is such a range of different hobbies and interests which anyone can get involved in, for example I did judo. I met a really wide range of people with positive interests and it felt as if the world was a bigger place than I’d ever realised, there were so many opportunities out there. I suppose, because you have managed to graduate successfully from Cambridge, you end up with a confidence that you can take on anything.
Why did you want to be a Member of the European Parliament?
Why did I want to stand? It was a fairly late decision. I’d campaigned to stay in Europe since 2014, then I worked with the Remain team in 2016, but had not thought about putting myself forward as an MEP candidate. This time around I just felt fed up with feeling so powerless with all of the ridiculousness going on, so I decided to stand and do what I can. I do believe more people want to remain as part of the European Union. I also think we should whatever deal the Conservatives come up with back to the people for a vote. Regardless of the outcome of that vote I think it’s the fair way to do it. To be honest, I never expected to be elected.
How do you go from Fitzwilliam to become a MEP?
After Fitz I worked for 30 years at the BBC making science documentaries, after which I carried on doing similar work with commercial broadcasters. After a few years it dawned on me that I missed the public service element of working for the BBC. I started to consider how I could help and make a difference. At that time I was living in Twickenham and I would regularly pass Vince Cable’s office. I’m a massive Vince Cable (Economics 1962) fan, so naturally I ended up joining his team. That’s how I got into politics.