Alumna Judith Bunting

'The existing students didn’t quite know what had hit them'

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.