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Issue 25 | 2019

Contents Welcome to Optima 03 | Master’s message 04–05 | The year in pictures Features 06–11 | Access and Widening Participation Reports from our conference Interview 12–14 | Meet the new Master Sally Morgan talks education and her thoughts on the future Memories 15–19 | 40 years: Women at Fitz A focus on some of the fantastic alumnae of Fitz since 1979 Fellows’ research 20–21 | Multilingualism in India Fellow Professor Ianthi Tsimpli on education in India 22–23 | Learning Together in prisons A pioneering programme led by Bye-Fellow Amy Ludlow Student research 24–25 | Polar studies PhD student Prem Gill on his research on Antarctic seals Extracurricular 26–27 | Music & books


Master’s message


elcome to the 25th edition of Optima. As you receive this magazine, the first weeks of Michaelmas term are unfolding. And this year we have an extra Fresher – me! I was officially admitted as Master on 1 October and I hosted the undergraduate matriculation dinner on 7 October. It is a delight to be joining the Fitzwilliam ranks with a host of young people. When you are chosen to be Master, there is quite a long period of waiting between the decision making and the appointment, and I have spent the past few months learning about Fitzwilliam. Thank you to all the Fellows, staff, students and alumni who have generously welcomed me and spent time helping me get to know how Fitz works. I’m looking forward to building upon these introductions in the next few months. This has already been a very important year for the College. We’ve just celebrated our 150th anniversary – culminating in an Access and Widening Participation Conference just last month, where I was pleased to meet a number of you. It was a day of thought-provoking conversations, practical ideas and real enthusiasm to move forward with new initiatives, and there is a flavour of the day in the following pages. You will be hearing more about this topic as the year progresses – please share your thoughts with me and help the College develop its work.

This academic year 2019/20 also marks our anniversary of 40 years of women at Fitz, and you can read about some of the wonderful women of Fitz in the pages that follow. Their talents really do exemplify a commitment to serving communities, with the values that underpin Fitzwilliam College. Do take a look at our newly revamped College website, which is featuring Fitz women for the next few months in a dedicated section: fitz.cam.ac.uk/about/history/40-years-women. A few dates for the diary… For the current students, on 9 November we will be holding the 11th Annual Careers Fair. This is a fantastic opportunity to meet a wide range of our alumni, practise your networking skills in a friendly environment, and learn a bit more about the options available after graduation. And for everyone, on 14 November, Fitzwilliam Fellow, Professor Bhaskar Vira will deliver the annual Foundation Lecture, entitled From the Himalayas to the Fens: Towards a Political Economy of Environment and Development. The lecture will be very well attended, so do book in early if you would like to come. Enjoy this issue, and do stop me and say hello if we pass in College.

Sally Morgan

Foundation Lecture 2019 14 November | 6pm | Auditorium ‘From the Himalayas to the Fens: Towards a Political Economy of Environment and Development’

Professor Bhaskar Vira Fitzwilliam College Fellow, Graduate Tutor and Director of Studies in Geography, Professor of Political Economy and Head of the Department of Geography

Book your place at: fitz.cam.ac.uk/foundation The lecture is free and open to all.


The year in pictures A



C A: 20 June 2019 - Fitzwilliam’s cricketers celebrated a fourth successive Cuppers win with an eight-wicket victory over Emmanuel at Fenner’s | B: 12 August 2019 Undergraduate Bea Goddard (English 2017) created a documentary about those living in shelters or on the streets in Cambridge, the city with the largest wealth gap in the UK | C: 10 April 2019 - Hassan Raja (History 2018) produced a series of online portraits of Pakistani men studying at University of Cambridge | D: 4 June 2019 - Camellia Manzoori and Nick Squires completed the Work-based Horticulture Apprenticeship (Level 3) while working full-time at Fitzwilliam College in the gardening team. The apprenticeship scheme ran in association with the College of West Anglia | E: 19 June 2019 - Fitz JCR president Ellie Brain and JCR academic affairs executive Poppy Blackshaw buried a time capsule on Billy Day in the College gardens as part of the 150th Anniversary celebrations | F: 28 August 2019 - Second year postgraduate student Kate Derkach (Applied Linguistics 2017) recorded her first album after raising more than £2,000 through crowdfunding site Indiegogo. P04 FITZWILLIAM COLLEGE NEWSLETTER




G: 15 June 2019 - Lasdun’s Central Building, including the Lantern Roof, was reimagined as a cake created by Executive Chef Richard Wayman for the Donors’ Garden Party | H: 2 July 2019 - Fitzwilliam College signed up to the Hedgehog Friendly Campus Initiative, thanks to a 15-strong team of staff, students and Fellows. It’s the first campaign of its kind on an Oxbridge campus | I: 10 July 2019 - Fitzwilliam was awarded a Bronze Award by the University’s Green Impact Scheme for the second time. The College’s JCR spearheaded the use of biodegradable takeaway containers in our Café and Buttery and the gardening team is encouraging biodiversity in the grounds thanks to wildflower planting | J: 12 May 2019 - 50 alumni, including 18 MCR Presidents, celebrated the completion of the MCR extension at The Grove | K: 31 July 2019 - A scholarship programme for undergraduates from Singapore was launched for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, thanks to a donation from ST Telemedia | L: 10 May 2019 - Fitzwilliam men’s football first team thwarted a valiant effort from Pembroke to win the final of Cuppers for a third year in a row.






Access and Widening Participation Conference Our 150th Anniversary celebrations concluded with a conference to discuss issues which have been central themes since our foundation. Dr Nicola Jones, the Development Director, explains.


his year marks 150 years since the Non-Collegiate Students Board (NCBS) was founded and the early traces of what would ultimately become Fitzwilliam College began to be drawn.

attracted 120 attendees, including Fitzwilliam Fellows, students, staff and alumni, charity representatives, teachers, academics and leading policy voices in the University.

The NCBS was created to offer access to Cambridge for those young men who could not afford expensive college fees, and out of this idea came 32 Trumpington Street, Fitzwilliam’s first home.

Discussion was structured around four panels, with attendees encouraged to ask questions, enter into debate, and ponder how to make a difference.

Historical milestones are important, and it was no accident that our 10-year fundraising campaign was timed to conclude in our 150th year. But as the College reflected warmly on its history, we felt that it was crucial not simply to revisit our achievements but to focus explicitly on the future and the challenges we still face. Promoting access to higher education is fundamental to our identity, so we decided to host an Access and Widening Participation Conference on Saturday 14 September, 2019 to conclude our 150th Anniversary celebrations. Access and widening participation for Fitz means admitting the brightest students and supporting them to succeed to their potential, and our motivation in holding the event was to bring together interested parties from across the educational and charitable sectors, so we could all learn together how to improve our practices. The conference, held in the Auditorium,


As Professor Nicola Padfield said in her introduction to the conference: “We consider the College to be a dynamic, welcoming and international community, committed to developing the talents of all its students, numbering over 800. We have a reputation for being friendly, supportive and down to earth. “Although our understanding of access and widening participation has shifted over 150 years, the College is proud of the aspirations of our 19th-century founders. 150 years on, the challenges – some persistently the same, others new – are still very present. “We wanted to take a hard look at finding solutions to a problem. The timing is apt, not only because of our 150 years. We are being pushed to take more students from low participation and deprived neighbourhoods, and rightly so. “What do we mean by ‘access and widening participation’? As far as I am concerned, it means being radical in the way we think about the place of this University in society.

“None of us want to live in a world where social mobility is getting more difficult. “We’re thrilled that the University is developing significant new initiatives, such as moving closer to a transition year. But we mustn’t go blindly on without serious evaluation and reflection.” The following pages will give you a flavour of the topics discussed. There is much still to do. But there is a determination to build on the day’s discourse across the University, and beyond and the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Stephen Toope, left us in no doubt why this work is vital. He said: “We cannot be a great university if, even inadvertently, we are not open to the social and cultural diversity of the world around us. That is not just a matter of boxticking. “For me it goes beyond acknowledging the obvious fact that all of us benefit in countless ways from teaching, learning, researching and working in environments with diverse nationalities, ethnicities, skillsets, world views, family backgrounds. All of this is a genuinely enriching experience for all students. “I think for Cambridge this is, first and foremost, an ethical issue. We can only expect to have public support for our university if we are prepared to engage and encourage with the top talent, to let it pour in regardless from where it flows.”

Professor Graham Virgo, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, chairs the fourth panel at the conference, watched by the University of Cambridge Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope (from left to right): Tom Levinson (University of Cambridge Head of Widening Participation), Sir Kenneth Olisa (Engineering with Management 1971), Professor Virgo, John Harding (Head of the Disability Resource Centre), James Turner (Chief Executive, The Sutton Trust). Photography by Martin Bond and Dr John Cleaver P07 FITZWILLIAM COLLEGE NEWSLETTER

Conference snapshots

Care leavers The conference heard from care leavers who provided a number of practical points that can be put in place almost instantly. Sophia Alexandra Hall (pictured, left), the first care-experienced person to attend and graduate from Jesus College, Oxford, spoke about providing basic things to make students’ rooms feel like a home, such as a duvet set, cutlery and crockery. Sam Turner (pictured, centre), Voice and Influencing Manager at Become, the charity for children in care and young care leavers, said the best question to ask was: “What would a good parent do?” Fitzwilliam Admissions Tutor Sara Owen told the audience that the College was very keen to work further with careexperienced children, and is already talking to care leaver and alumnus Ashley John-Baptiste (History 2008) and Become about having an event at Fitzwilliam.

Attainment gaps Research presented by Professor Anna Vignoles (pictured, left) and Director of Studies in Education and Bye-Fellow Dr Sonia Ilie (pictured, right) demonstrated that it was incredibly important for us to acknowledge that attainment gaps between the wealthiest and poorest students at school do exist. Bursaries are vital to close those gaps once students are at university, enabling them to focus on their studies rather than worrying about money. At Fitzwilliam, the Admissions team find that those from widening participation backgrounds will sometimes not present as strongly in terms of academic track record as those who’ve had all the advantages associated with going to very good schools. Interviews remain incredibly important in enabling Admissions to identify potential in all students, but particularly those who for reasons of educational disadvantage perhaps don’t present as well on paper.


Contextual offers Sam Dobin, Director of Sixth Form at Brampton Manor Academy (pictured right), said a radical change would be to have post-A-Level applications. He also emphasised the importance of taking into account the context of application when assessing, something the Admissions team does routinely at Fitzwilliam. However, he warned against allowing lower offers for widening participation students, as this may lead to an idea of those students somehow being token figures and that they are at university only as they are from a particular group rather than for their academic excellence. At Fitzwilliam, when results come in every August, Admissions take into account all contextual factors and extenuating circumstances when deciding whether to confirm places for students who have narrowly missed their offer level.

Working with the media The recent rise in student vloggers, like Ibrahim Mohammed (pictured left), who has 100,000 subscribers on YouTube as Ibz Mo, has seen many from widening participation backgrounds taking control of their own messaging. This has been really important in terms of showing students what it is really like to be at Cambridge. University Communications Manager Paul Seagrove said there was a tendency for media outlets to limit representation of Cambridge to stock images of older colleges. He pointed out that recently the BBC wanted to interview one of our offer holders in Cambridge but refused to film her against the backdrop at Fitzwilliam, instead suggesting that she stand in front of King’s College – which she refused to do. It was argued that if the variety of colleges was instead reflected, it would increase the number of people who might see themselves here.


Conference reflections Admissions Tutor Dr Sara Owen reflects on the subjects discussed at the Access and Widening Participation Conference, and provides her view on the importance of interviews.


was delighted by the rigorous discussion and the constructive tone of the debate during the day. There was productive conversation and some radical ideas put forward by a wide range of participants – all within a context of attempting to help us to widen participation further. Four panels covered a large range of issues. The discussion about care-experienced students bounced off alumnus and BBC reporter Ashley John-Baptiste’s film about his background and experience applying to, and attending Fitzwilliam, as well as freelance policy advisor Sophia Alexandra Hall’s eloquent outline of her experience at Jesus College, Oxford. Sam Turner, of Become, framed this discussion with his experience of working with children and young people from this background. I was not alone in having my eyes opened further to the many additional barriers careexperienced young people face, even after they have gained admission to university. We went away with a list of ideas to implement to make care leavers’ lives easier here at Fitzwilliam. The panel on research made it very clear not only that the attainment gap between the richest and poorest students does exist, but that, despite a huge amount of money and effort being poured into access projects, there has been little change in the proportions of each group admitted to Russell Group universities over the past couple of decades. Cambridge was


not differentiated in these figures. The numbers of Cambridge students flagged as underrepresented or deprived using geodemographic postcode data has risen steadily in the past few years, but whether these postcode measures adequately capture all students from deprived and underrepresented backgrounds is a key issue. It was strongly suggested that more personal measures such as Pupil Premium and Free School Meals would give us a more representative picture. Another related discussion surrounded aptitude testing and admission tests. Professor Anna Vignoles (Faculty of Education and Jesus College, Cambridge) was firm on the idea that there’s never been an aptitude test that is not coachable. She argued that contextual admissions (in terms of lowering the bar as well as taking context into account) was something that should be considered given the attainment gap. Finally, this session emphasised that admitting students from widening participation backgrounds was only part of the picture. Bursaries have been shown to support students to close the attainment gap whilst they are at university, but it is also crucially important to support students with careers advice, even once they have graduated. Lunch time was gratifyingly full of discussion and gave an opportunity for participants to view Fitzwilliam student

Hassan Raja’s impressive photo exhibition entitled The Pakistani Men of Cambridge. The third panel, ‘Dispelling the myths’, brought together a range of voices to talk about Cambridge’s struggles against the misunderstandings that are widespread in schools and which are spread by the media. University Communications Manager Paul Seagrove, recent graduate and prominent education influencer Ibrahim Mohammed (Ibz Mo), and the Director of Brampton Manor Academy Sixth Form Sam Dobin, all emphasised the importance of accurately portraying Cambridge, and the value of independent student vlogging in producing content which is open and truthful about the experiences of individual students, and is trusted by prospective students. The success at Brampton Manor has been, at least in part, down to making students feel that applying to Oxbridge is normal, Sam said. We know that too many state-educated school students are discouraged from applying to Oxbridge. A figure that several conference participants, including The Sutton Trust Chief Executive James Turner, brought up was that over 40% of teachers would not encourage their brightest students to apply to Oxbridge. I experienced this for myself when applying to Cambridge in 1989 – my form tutor told me that I was “betraying my class and my family” by applying – and it is very sad that, 30 years on, the situation for many has not changed.


Fitzwilliam’s intake of home state students


Home students with at least one widening participation flag (IMD, Polar, OAC)

The final panel, ‘It’s not (just) about the money’, was chaired by Professor Graham Virgo, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, and drew together many of the earlier discussions. Alumnus Sir Kenneth Olisa said if there was a means of identifying pre-GCSE students for whom Cambridge was a possibility, it would create positive outcomes, and debated again with Professor Vignoles the feasibility of creating an aptitude test that would enable such pupils to self-identify. The idea of self-belief was a strong theme introduced by Sir Kenneth in relation to his own experience of coming to Fitzwilliam, and the aims of his Aleto Foundation. This was an undercurrent in all the panels and explicitly discussed by Ibrahim Mohammed, Sophia Alexandra Hall, and Ashley JohnBaptiste, in relation to their university experiences. John Harding, Head of the Disability Resources Centre, outlined some of the key barriers in this regard, as well as in practical terms, for disabled applicants. Tom Levinson (the University’s Head of Widening Participation) suggested that we should focus on longer term access work, starting with younger school students. This suggestion chimed well with Fitzwilliam’s practice. We have worked with Kent Academies for years – our students mentor school students over several years – and we have started a similar mentoring scheme for Year 9 onwards pupils of Swindon Academy, in partnership with Marlborough College.

James Turner outlined the main barriers facing those from widening participation backgrounds. Attainment is a key issue, and the suggestion was made, echoing the research that had been discussed in the second panel, that contextual offers would be a way to deal with that gap. He also pointed out that complexity in application systems is a point of jeopardy for widening participation. This led him to suggest that we ought to look at whether we should continue to interview as part of the application process. Tom Levinson agreed that could be worth consideration.

Interviews enable us to practise contextual admissions without resorting to quotas This suggestion worries me greatly. Many of the Russell Group universities, which rely on a smaller amount of information when making their offers, do not do as well as us in terms of admitting a representative number of students from state schools or, indeed, widening participation backgrounds. All they have, in basic terms, are a candidate’s GCSE results, teacher’s reference, the personal statement, and predicted A-Level (or equivalent) grades upon which to make their decisions. The

attainment gap means that many widening participation students do not have a stellar examination record. GCSE examinations are incredibly reliant on students being taught how to jump through hoops in the right order, and it is now less possible than it was in the past for a bright student to come out with a good set of results without school guidance. Therefore, students who have been to an underperforming school are more likely to come out with poorer GCSE results than equally bright students who have attended top-performing schools. Many of our brightest students’ applications (alone) would not have enabled us to take a chance on them. But the fact that we interview, and can therefore personally assess their ability to think flexibly and aptitude for the course for which they have applied, means that we can be confident that they will thrive on our courses. The fact that Cambridge has such a low rate of students dropping out for me indicates not only that we look after our students well pastorally, but that we are good at identifying students who can cope with our very challenging courses. I believe, therefore, that the interview is what enables us to practise contextual admissions without resorting to quotas which would make widening participation students feel like they are only at Cambridge due to their background. Widening participation is about admitting the brightest students, and the interview enables us to do just that.


The new Master Baroness Morgan of Huyton became Fitzwilliam College’s ninth Master on 1 October. She tells Matt McGeehan about her background in education and her hopes for the future at Fitzwilliam.


aroness Sally Morgan officially became Fitzwilliam College’s ninth Master on 1 October. Yet from her first connections with Fitzwilliam she felt an affinity which has only grown since the announcement in February that she would succeed Professor Nicola Padfield QC (Hon) as Master. Fitzwilliam’s founding ethos, of access for all academically able students regardless of background, chimes with Sally, who has long worked with charities seeking to improve opportunities for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. “I’ve always seen education as the best way that one can widen the life chances of young people,” she says. “It’s long been a personal interest of mine and I believe that we have to commit to try to really improve and extend education throughout life.” Born in Liverpool in June 1959, Sally was educated in the city. A childhood exploring the Lake District, North Wales and the Yorkshire Dales inspired a passion for geography. She is perhaps best known for being a member of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s inner circle in the Labour Government elected in 1997. She was also head of Ofsted and served on the Olympic Delivery Authority board for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic


Games. One constant throughout her personal and professional life has been her links to education.

Fitzwilliam is now set to benefit from her experiences to date and she immediately felt comfortable in the College.

Her mother was a teacher and her son is a teacher. After graduating from the University of Durham with a geography degree, she was a secondary school teacher herself in the early 1980s before stepping up her involvement in the Labour Party.

“Right from the beginning, walking through the gardens at Fitz, I felt a connection,” she says.

“I loved geography and I think I always wanted to be a teacher,” adds Sally, who is married to barrister John Lyons, whom she met while at Durham. They have been married for 35 years and have two sons. “I loved teaching. I didn’t leave because I didn’t like it. I left teaching for a change. I always thought I’d go back to it. I did a Masters in Education, because I was sure at some point I would be back in that sector. In a way I have been and now I am again.

“Right from the beginning, walking through the gardens at Fitz, I felt a connection” “I am looking forward to being part of the academic community at the University of Cambridge, with a whole range of people who have got such energy and talent.”

“It feels a natural home for me. I am a keen gardener and was immediately struck by the variety of the gardens. To have wildflowers, an allotment and a habitat to encourage hedgehogs says something about the psyche of the place – the informality, inclusivity and the sustainable approach.” The discussion on access has grown in recent years, with attention rightly focused on Cambridge and Oxford, and more broadly on all elite universities to widen participation. Sally is aware of the intricacies from a secondary education perspective, including through her involvement with the charities Ark and Ambition Initiative (formerly Future Leaders), and in higher education as ViceChair at Kings College, London. She adds: “I’ve been on the other side, spending 14 years working with schools serving disadvantaged communities, trying to get kids into great universities and raising their aspirations to let them have a real crack at things. “To come here and say ‘Fitz is a place that’s really trying to do that’, its overall ambition


is to get the best students regardless of background or geography or anything else, makes complete sense to me. “There’s a lot of noise about this issue and a lot of pressure from the Office for Students. “Fitz shouldn’t be frightened of that at all, because it’s what it wants to do and has been doing. Fitzwilliam College is something of a leader in the field. That said, we shouldn’t be complacent, because there’s obviously a long way to go. Cambridge as a whole has to recognise that there’s a lot of pressure to move this issue forward. “It has got to do it in a sophisticated and a thoughtful way. It would be very easy to tick some boxes and that actually doesn’t really change much.

evolution, not revolution, as she paid tribute to Nicky for her six years as Master. “Clearly, Nicky’s a very hard act to follow,” she adds. “She’s been fantastic in terms of welcoming me and I know she’ll be at the end of the phone as well as just down the road if I need any advice or support. That’s great. “The brilliant thing about coming to Fitz is it feels to me to be a strong community and a quietly confident community that knows it must keep moving forward. “My ambition in the first term is really to understand it a lot more. It’s very foolish to come in and say ‘I’m going to do X, Y and Z’ before I’ve really spent some time somewhere new.

“We also need to think once those students get to Cambridge ‘are we doing enough to make sure they’re supported?’ Getting to an elite university is just the start. There are other barriers which follow.”

“Everything that makes Fitz lovely and successful, we need to cherish, but I think we can also bring the outside world in somewhat by talking up our achievements – and I think that would be helpful to students.

Initially, Sally’s ambitions are about

“Since I was appointed as Master-elect, I’ve

had all sorts of people in contact with me with quite varied backgrounds, interest and experience saying ‘we’re keen to get involved in different ways’. “We’ve got a lot of talent in our alumni network and I want to make sure that I’m building links to strengthen those ties going forward. The community succeeds if we all support each other.” She is the latest member of the Fitzwilliam community with a political connection, believing the College has representatives across the political spectrum for one reason. “There has obviously been, and remains, a very strong connection with public service,” she says. “That’s something I think is brilliant. It’s great to have talented people go into public service, both in the UK and internationally. “I didn’t even know the incredible range of people before. Even in the House of Lords with me, there’s Norman Lamont, Jim Knight, Leslie Griffiths. ...continues overleaf P13 FITZWILLIAM COLLEGE NEWSLETTER

Sally’s take on Desert Island Discs Film: Selma TV: No Offence (Channel 4) Book: Mary Barton – Elizabeth Gaskell

“There’s half a dozen in the Commons, in the European Parliament and abroad, too.” She was a key confidante of Blair before her departure from Downing Street in 2005, and is proud of her record in Government, which included a prominent emphasis on education. “Of course there’s controversies about the Government of which I was part, but overall I’m very proud of what we did,” she adds. “We were trying to move the country forwards in a way that we thought increased fairness, but also increased economic success. I stand strongly by that. Whether it was the introduction of

the minimum wage, investment in Sure Start, cutting waiting times for operations from 18 months to 18 weeks, increasing development aid, or big cultural and legal change around equality, especially LGBT rights, I know we made a difference. “I could go on, but I won’t!” Sally anticipates testing times ahead, but she is ready to face them with the same passion, energy and honesty which she has shown throughout her life. She says: “This is going to be a challenging time for higher education, yet it has never been more important to the success and standing of the UK.”

Ideal dinner party guests Atul Gawande (surgeon, writer, and public health researcher) George Alagiah (broadcast journalist) Clive James (author and broadcaster) Deborah Levy (playwright, novelist and poet) Eliza Manningham-Buller (ex-MI5, Chairman Wellcome foundation) Yotam Ottolenghi (chef ) Emma Barnett (broadcast journalist BBC Radio 5 Live/BBC Newsnight) David Miliband (President & CEO of the International Rescue Committee, former Foreign Secretary) David Adjaye (architect) Anne Longfield (Children’s Commissioner for England) My husband, John Lyons (barrister) Favourite books from her book club in the last year Transcription – Kate Atkinson The Marches: A Borderland Journey Between England and Scotland – Rory Stewart An American Marriage – Tayari Jones Admissions: a life in brain surgery – Henry Marsh Sweet Tooth – Ian McEwan

Photography by Martin Bond and Nicola Collenette P14 FITZWILLIAM COLLEGE NEWSLETTER

October 1979 saw women matriculate at Fitzwilliam College for the first time. To mark the 40th anniversary, Development Officer Matt McGeehan has led a project to interview alumnae and prominent Fitzwilliam women from across the first four decades. The first interview with Professor Nicola Padfield QC (Hon) was published on 1 September on a dedicated section of our website. Interviews have followed with Lisa O’Neill, who matriculated in 1978 – a year before the College officially admitted women. Olympians Fiona McIntosh and Sarah Winckless were next, ahead of the Sports Dinner, before a back-to-school theme with Sonita Alleyne and Sharon White. The Reunion Weekend saw interviews with some of the class of 1979.

Ellie Davies (Engineering 2010) followed mum Liz Makin (Economics 1979) to Fitzwilliam and must be one of the first Fitz students whose parents both attended the College.


or mother and daughter Liz Makin and Ellie Davies there is one persistent issue with returning to Fitzwilliam College.

Liz says: “We used to get confused about which was the back and front of College. “The front was Huntingdon Road for me, because that’s where the Porters’ Lodge was when I was there, whereas the front for Ellie was Storey’s Way where the new Porters’ Lodge is. This made meeting up interesting, to say the least!” Ellie must have been one of the first Fitz students with two Fitz alumni as parents. Her mum, Liz, met dad Mark Davies (Engineering 1977) in her first year, when she was one of the first intake of women.

On the following pages are interviews with alumnae telling different stories. For the full collection of interviews, visit the website: fitz.cam.ac.uk/about/history/40-years-women

“I went to that and everyone seemed really normal, friendly and not intimidating like I had imagined Cambridge students to be. “I never told anyone at College for the first couple of years that my parents went to Fitz and never mentioned it on my application.” Liz’s reflections on the changes in their experiences are based mainly on the College’s physical expansion and reorientation. Some similarities remained. She adds: “Ellie’s room seemed to be furnished exactly as my room had been all those years ago! “ The continuity extended to the people. Professor Robert Lethbridge was Master when Ellie was a student, having been Liz’s personal tutor 30 years previously.

able to stand up for themselves. I think that was part of the selection criteria! As the first year of women in College, we did get a lot of attention. The men stared at us, heckled us or tried to chat us up. We were never short of party invites or men to mend our bike punctures – we used to stand in the bike sheds, look helpless and someone would appear! “The female students lived on the first or second floors as students returning after the 11pm closure of the gates climbed through ground floor room windows!” Both Liz and Ellie have friendships which have endured from their first days at Fitz. Ellie adds: “Mum’s best friend is a girl she met on the first day, living in the same corridor, which is exactly the same as me!”

“We had played a squash match for the opening of the squash courts in 1981. It’s funny as Robert recalls he won and I recall I won,” Liz says.

But Ellie’s decision to attend Fitzwilliam was not about upholding family traditions.

Liz’s own application to Fitzwilliam came about when a teacher at her state school, Danum School in Doncaster, suggested she apply to be in the first intake of women.

“When I started to think about university, my mum received information about an open day at Fitz,” Ellie says.

She says: “He didn’t think many other girls would apply. Most of the women who came up that year were quite strong-willed and P15 FITZWILLIAM COLLEGE NEWSLETTER

Sarah Rainsford (MML 1992) explains how her talent for Russian led her to a career as a foreign correspondent.


come from a state school education in the Midlands and didn’t really know what to expect from Cambridge at all, or understand the system. I remember my admissions interview with Professor (Anthony) Cross on the panel. I had no idea then that he was the head of the Russian department at the University. I remember it was all pretty intimidating and my friends studying elsewhere seemed to be having a much better time than me. I was just working hard to keep up with all the clever people. What did I do? Worked hard, went to the bar, and played football. The first match I played was against Churchill. Unfortunately, I was enthusiastic rather than skilful and I broke a girl’s collarbone. I got the nickname Crusher after that. I met my husband, Kester Aspden (History 1994) at Fitz, at the quiz machine in the bar. He was doing a PhD. Now he’s a writer and travels the world with me. A portable husband is a rare species in foreign


correspondent circles. When we were in Istanbul he wrote The Hounding of David Oluwale and it won a Gold Dagger award for crime non-fiction. He can also thank me for taking him to Havana for three years, when he learned to dance salsa. Now he’s planning to write about that. I loved languages at school. I did French, German and Latin then at Sixth Form College there just happened to be a teacher who had learned Russian in the military. It sounded exotic. He had this slightly dull way of teaching, insisting on learning the grammar first and holding up flash cards he’d made himself. It took us a year before we learned a single sentence. But it was extremely effective. Then a Russian girl, Natasha, came to stay as part of an exchange programme. In January 1992 I spent six months in Moscow. It was the most amazing time to be there. The Soviet Union was falling apart around me. You could travel to places that were suddenly independent republics. We flew to Uzbekistan for a dollar, then got stuck there with no flights back because

nobody knew how to operate independent airlines. In Georgia we ended up in a hotel full of refugees from the civil war, with a lad called Spartak throwing roses up on to our balcony. I finished university with Russian and French, then worked at Bloomberg TV starting off as an intern and becoming a producer. After that, I got a job with the BBC Russian Service, calling correspondents to record their reports then cutting the quarter-inch tape with a razor blade. I first moved out to Moscow for BBC News in August 2000, right after the Kursk submarine sank and at the very beginning of Vladimir Putin’s time in power. Two days after landing, I found myself covering that disaster and I haven’t looked back. I was a producer, initially, getting other people on air. But I always wanted to be behind the microphone or in front of the camera. I started reporting at the weekends, finding features, and got my break when the Nord-Ost theatre siege happened in 2002. A group of Chechen militants stormed a Moscow theatre in the middle of a musical,

taking hundreds of people hostage, and I ended up outside doing my first live reports on a mobile phone. I never really thought I’d leave Russia. I always wanted to be BBC Moscow Correspondent. It was my dream job, but it was also the first place I was sent. Then in September 2004, the horrific school siege in Belsan was a huge story. We won a Sony Gold for our coverage and after that a job came up in Istanbul which opened my eyes to reporting from outside Russia. From there, I was offered Madrid – which I loved. Then in 2011 I was asked to go to Cuba to close down the BBC Havana bureau. Instead, I stayed working there for three years and later ended up writing a book, Our Woman in Havana. Cuba was the most frustrating place I’d ever been as a journalist. It’s a tropical island with a fascinating history. But it’s also a one-party state where you need Communist Party permission to film anything – most of the time the answer’s no. I managed to get some great stories in any case, but in 2014 I was watching BBC World in Havana and

all my colleagues from Moscow were down in Kiev, covering the revolution. I had to be there. I got deployed to Kiev for a month, then when a new Moscow job came up I headed back. Russia is such a huge story. I wanted to be back on the map. At least officials here in Russia talk to us, unlike in Cuba. We speak to the Kremlin every day. But Russia has been closing down. We can get followed in the provinces. It even happened before the World Cup, when Russia wanted to showcase its best face to the world. They don’t interfere, though. It can be much worse for Russian journalists. A scary number have faced criminal charges or been killed. No-one here forgets them. It was always my dream to be a foreign correspondent, but I didn’t have anybody telling me how to make it happen. I didn’t know any journalists. It happened through a combination of being pushy, lucky, being in the right place at the right time and making some good choices, like learning Russian, for example. I do think that gives me a massive advantage, helping me to understand this country and make sense of it for the world.

I remember all my other friends learning Russian had to sign up for boring programmes in the provinces. I was initially signed up to some course at the Shipbuilding Institute in St Petersburg. I think I went once. But I found out there was an Irish pub being built right next to the Mariinsky Theatre. I met the owners from Cork and they took me on as a translator and fixer. I spent most of my year abroad there. It was Wild East time; St Petersburg was a Mafia city then. There were people with guns and drugs in the back room of the pub and the Mafia visiting. There was me, 19, 20, on a year abroad serving beer and learning the best Russian I could ever have learned. I did my oral exam when I got back and I think every third word was a swear word. So despite the very conservative side of Cambridge, I did have a lot of freedom. That gives me a great perspective on Russia now. Because I was there in the 1990s experiencing real life from the inside, instead of sitting in some provincial university studying more flash cards. Photography courtesy of Sarah Rainsford P17 FITZWILLIAM COLLEGE NEWSLETTER

Sherry Haque (Law 2002) became disillusioned working for Cambridgeshire Crown Prosecution Service, so changed career in Canada.


had always wanted to go into prosecution work, which is really unusual. I didn’t have any enthusiasm for all the big law firms that come recruiting at Cambridge and it probably showed – they wanted nothing to do with me either! I stayed in the area until 2012, working for CPS Cambridgeshire. Initially, I was like ‘OK, this is what I want to do’, but over time I became disillusioned with my work. When my husband said to me ‘I don’t want to be a doctor in England any more, let’s move’ I said ‘sure’. I left Law and I only have


very fond memories now, because the bad ones fade over time. I came to Canada and spent a year studying, so I now also have a Canadian Law degree. It was that year that I spent studying that really made me think about what I wanted. It was ‘do I still want to go and sit behind a desk and deal with mounds of paperwork?’ The answer was no, but I didn’t know entirely what I wanted, until I saw that the fire department was recruiting. It was the antithesis of what I’d been doing. It was not pearls and suits and high heels. It was the things that had really challenged me personally. I’d had a very privileged upbringing, I was always scared of dealing with anything with trades or mechanics. And all of a sudden I thought ‘you know what? I’m going to become a firefighter’. My friends from Cambridge said ‘are you crazy?’

I said ‘I think it’s going to be what really suits me’ – and it has. I’m risk averse. It seems really odd that now I think ‘yes, I’m going to run into a burning building’. But fire departments have a lot of discipline and structure and I think that’s what appeals to me as well. I’ve now not been a lawyer longer than I was a lawyer, but I’d like to think the skills I learnt as a prosecutor have served me well in the fire service. You have to learn not to pre-judge, but also to trust your instinct. You learn to make decisions very rationally and to stand by them. By the time I got into my 30s I learnt that your career can’t be what defines you. Find what makes you happy, sparks that fire, makes you get out of bed and do that. Hopefully it pays the mortgage and keeps food on your table as well. Firefighting is about more than just firefighting. It’s given me opportunities I don’t think I would have ever dreamed of. When I was a lawyer I couldn’t imagine doing anything other than front-line work, the cases. If you’d told me to manage people, I would’ve said no. I think firefighting’s more my suit because it challenges me in different ways and makes me want to expand my skillset.


Salwa Elhalawani (Geography 2008) is a single mother of triplets who left her home in Egypt to pursue postgraduate education in Cambridge.


hen I got the scholarship from Cambridge Trust in 2008 to do an MPhil in Geographical Research, I was on top of the world having the dream of my life come true. I was a full-time student again with seven-year-old triplets. Just managing the time between appointments, attendance, and looking after the kids was quite challenging, but Fitzwilliam supported me greatly. The triplets were born in Egypt and it was a very big decision in my life to bring them here. Some people accused me of being either naïve or very brave, to take three kids at that age and move to a completely different country, different culture, different everything, without any help or support from family or friends. I had thought hard about it though and accepted the challenge. However, had the

College not supported me, I might have changed my mind and gone back home.

communities, or just to spend some time with my family.

The scholarship payment was only for myself as the student, so it wasn’t enough to support the children as well. Whenever I requested any help though, the College supported me. I really appreciated all of their help. The College has a friendly environment, a group of people that made it easier for me to carry on and finish my degree. After my MPhil I did a PhD. The College did such a great job again and played a great part in my success for which I will always be grateful. After receiving my doctorate we went back to Egypt in 2013.

My first degree was in sociology and afterwards I obtained an MSc. in environmental sciences. Because I enjoyed working with local communities in my home country and had an interest in natural resources, I decided to consolidate my professional background and link both of my interests together, human and natural resources. I wanted to know more and have a greater understanding of the link between people and nature.

This, however, was for only one month during which time we experienced further unrest and repercussions that followed the 2011 revolution. There was a military coup, including mass killings just a couple of blocks from where we lived. The kids were stressed out, thinking it was unsafe for them, especially after the time they enjoyed here in the United Kingdom, so without regret I decided to head back to Cambridge. Although I’m sure I’ll go back to Egypt for good one day, for now I go back every year, whether to undertake some surveys and studies related to conservation and local

Afterwards there was a job opportunity with BirdLife International, and following that I moved to TRAFFIC International as a project officer, supporting a large project related to the illegal trafficking of wildlife, involving five regional offices. I returned to BirdLife as Grant Manager on 1 September. My children are 17 now and doing their A-Levels. My daughter has a special interest in geography and is considering going to Cambridge. The boys are doing very well but have more interest in politics and economics. I’m proud of my achievement in that they’ve come so far and I can’t wait until they go to university. P19 FITZWILLIAM COLLEGE NEWSLETTER

fellows’ research

How multilingualism could benefit India’s poorest children Multilingual children in India do not enjoy the same cognitive and learning advantages seen in multilingual children in the Global North. Fitzwilliam Fellow Professor Ianthi Tsimpli discusses her research with Stuart Roberts.


he crowded and bustling streets of Delhi teem with life. Stop to listen and, above the din of rickshaws, taxis and buses, you’ll hear a multitude of languages, as more than 20 million men, women and children go about their daily lives. Many were born and raised there, and many millions more have made India’s capital their home, having moved from surrounding neighbourhoods, cities and states or across the country, often in search of a better job, a better home and a better life. Some arrive speaking fluent Hindi, the dominant language in Delhi (and the official language of government), but many arrive speaking any number of India’s 22 officially recognised languages, let alone the hundreds of regional and tribal languages in a country of more than 1.3 billion people. Around 950 miles south of Delhi lies Hyderabad, where more than 70% of its seven million people speak Telugu. Meanwhile, in Bihar, in the northeast of India, Urdu has replaced Hindi as the dominant language across this poor and populous state of more than 100m people. What links Delhi, Hyderabad and Bihar is a four-year project, Multilingualism and multi-literacy: raising learning outcomes in challenging contexts in primary schools across India, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Department for International Development. Led by P20 FITZWILLIAM COLLEGE NEWSLETTER

Professor Ianthi Tsimpli, from the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, the project involves Dr Dénes Szucs from the Department of Psychology, plus researchers from the University of Reading and project partners in Karnataka, Hyderabad and New Delhi.

important capabilities, including critical thinking and problem solving. Low educational achievement can lead to many dropping out of school – a problem that disproportionately affects female students. And the gap between state schools and private schools increases every year.”

The overriding aim of the project is to find out why in a country where multilingualism is common (more than 255 million people in India speak at least two languages, and nearly 90 million speak three or more languages), the benefits and advantages of speaking more than one language, observed in Europe for instance, do not apply to many of India’s schoolchildren.

She and colleagues are looking at whether these low learning outcomes could be a byproduct of an Indian school system whereby the language that children are taught often differs from the language used at home.

For Ianthi, the answers to this conundrum may lie within the dataset she and her colleagues are compiling with the help of more than 1,000 primary-age schoolchildren across Delhi, Hyderabad and Bihar. “Each year across India, 600,000 children are tested, and year after year more than half of children in Standard 5 (10-year-olds) cannot read a Standard 2 (seven-year-olds) task fluently, and nearly half of them could not solve a Standard 2 subtraction task,” says Ianthi, who co-leads Cambridge Language Sciences, the University’s Interdisciplinary Research Centre. It brings researchers from different fields together to tackle ‘grand challenges’ where language is a factor. “Low literacy and numeracy limit other

“We are looking at eight to 11-year-old schoolchildren in rural and urban areas Within those urban areas we make the distinction between boys and girls living in slum and non-slum areas,” she explains. “Many children are internal migrants who move from remote, rural areas to urban areas. They are so poor they have to live in slums and, as a result of migration, these children may speak languages that are different to the regional language.” Two years into the four-year project, the team has discovered considerable variation in the provision of education across government schools in the three areas, with different teaching practices and standards. It’s possible that one of the causes of low performance is the lack of pupil-centred teaching methods; instead, the teacher dominates and there is little room for independent learning. Although

the findings are at a preliminary stage, Ianthi and her team have found that the medium of instruction used in schools, especially English, may hold back those children who have little familiarity with, or exposure to, the language before starting school and outside of school life. “Most of the evidence from this and other projects shows that English instruction in very disadvantaged areas might not be the best way to start, at least in the first three years of primary,” says Ianthi (pictured). “What we would recommend for everyone, not just low socio-economic status children, would be to start learning in the language they feel comfortable learning in. The medium of instruction should reflect the strengths of the child. When it does, that child will learn better. English can still be used, but perhaps not as the medium of instruction in primary schools. It could, for example, be one of the subjects that are being taught alongside other subjects, starting perhaps from the third year of primary school. “We are not suggesting that English be withdrawn – that ship has sailed – but we perhaps have to think more about

learner needs. There is perhaps too much uniformity in teaching and less tailoring to the children’s language abilities and needs.”

Life experiences for children in slums can reduce the education gap While the preliminary results show that there is no difference in general intelligence among boys and girls from slum versus urban poor backgrounds, a surprising finding has been that children from slum backgrounds in Delhi do not seem to lag behind other children from other urban poor backgrounds – and in some cases perform better. This unexpected finding may be down to the life experiences of children growing up in slums, where they are likely to mature faster and come into closer contact with the numeracy skills essential for day-to-day survival. Ianthi adds that, despite the project only being at its midpoint, it’s already caught the

attention of Delhi’s Minister for Education, who is keen to use their findings to inform and adjust school policy in India’s capital city and the wider state. Ianthi says: “Our findings don’t mean that you’re doomed if you’re poor. It may be that these low learning outcomes are because of the way education is provided in India, with a huge focus on Hindi and English as the mediums of instruction, to the potential detriment of children unfamiliar with those languages. “Language is central to the way knowledge is transferred – so the medium of instruction is obviously hugely influential. “We hope to be able to show that problem solving, numeracy and literacy can and do improve in children who are educated in a language of instruction that they know. “The trick may be to bridge school skills with life skills and make use of the richness of a child’s life experience to help them learn in the most effective ways possible.” This article originally appeared in Research Horizons magazine. Read it online: cam.ac.uk/research/researchat-cambridge/research-horizons


fellows’ research

A pioneering project to educate prisoners Fitzwilliam Bye-Fellow Dr Amy Ludlow tells Nicola Collenette about Learning Together, which sees students from inside prisons and outside study as equals in the same classroom.


ye-Fellow Dr Amy Ludlow and her colleague Dr Ruth Armstrong from the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge share a passion for the transformative power of education. This passion, together with many years working in criminal justice, seeing first-hand the system’s cracks and untapped potential, led them to create Learning Together, a pioneering project which builds learning communities of students from inside and outside prisons who study together as equals in the same classroom.The initiative recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. Amy is Director of Studies in Law at Fitzwilliam College, Director of the MSt Programme in Applied Criminology, Penology and Management and a Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge. She explains: “Learning Together is an educational initiative that began in HMP Grendon with a criminology course. “Now, we cover a whole range of disciplines as you’d expect to find at a university. We’re working with eight different departments in Cambridge delivering higher education courses in the prison environment, including increasingly welcoming students to study with us in Cambridge post-release Over the past five years, Learning Together has grown to be a national network of more than 50 universities and criminal justice institutions. Last year 600 students learned together across the UK.”


The passion Amy has for the programme and its power to bring positive change is infectious.

Students from the University of Cambridge often come to courses feeling just as nervous as their prison-based peers.

She says: “The research evidence linking participation in education and desistance from crime is compelling.

“All students often start out with fears about being judged – sometimes for their privilege, sometimes for the harm they’ve caused,” Amy says.

“So is research evidence about the power for us all – whether in prison or not – playing our part in inclusive communities that build understanding, connections and potential across borders and apparent differences. Unfortunately, in prisons currently, we find that funding is usually only aimed at low-level numeracy and literacy. That’s important but not sufficient and that’s where we come in.”

“Studying with university students unleashes new possibilities for positive change” The Learning Together team works with people with lengthy terms, including life sentences or indeterminate sentences. “Many of the incarcerated students have been in prison for a long time, and studying alongside university students builds hope, provides rare opportunities to ‘feel normal’, and unleashes new possibilities for positive change,” Amy explains.

“We don’t shy away from those issues, they’re difficult and important, and so we deliberately lean into them, which requires a lot of care, trust-building and skill. “We try to encourage all of our students to think about their privilege, power and responsibilities. “Care leavers, those with chronic mental health problems and BAME people are massively overrepresented in prison, as are people with negative experiences of education, including through segregation, exclusion and expulsion.” What does success look like for Learning Together? “It varies hugely,” Amy says. “One recent student in our Malcolm X reading group previously had not participated in any activity in prison at all. But he stayed the course – participated in the whole group from start to finish. That’s massive. So success can be something ‘as small’ as putting yourself forward and sticking with it.” Amy first studied as a Law undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge and then later for

a PhD for which former Fitzwilliam Master Professor Nicola Padfield was one of her supervisors. Amy says: “One of the things I most love about being a Bye-Fellow at Fitz is the College’s powerful contribution to public education and widening participation. “There’s a lightness alongside a seriousness about the place – a sense of ‘can do’ and a big picture, real world focus. There’s so much energy and curiosity here. “Learning Together has always felt like a natural fit with Fitz and I feel really proud and fortunate to be forging ahead in this work with the support of the College and the talents and energy of many fantastic colleagues here.” Asked about the challenges of this work, Amy smiles wryly. “Sometimes it’s tough – really tough – but I’m an optimist,” she adds. “There’s so much potential in each of us working together persistently, kindly and with a courageous sense of hope and love. “I am a big believer in the ethos that change starts with you – what you walk past, you accept.”

Maddy Constant (English 2018) took part in Writing Together last year, a creative writing course as part of the University’s Learning Together partnership with HMP Whitemoor. The course resulted in students producing a powerful collection of work called ‘Nobody Cares’. The anthology that contains a combination of poems, short stories and scripts, each written by students from Cambridge and Whitemoor together. Maddy shares her experience. I took part in the creative writing course with novelist Dr Preti Taneja at HMP Whitemoor during Michaelmas and Lent terms last year. I’d never been to a prison, and never done a creative writing course before, but I really wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and do something that initially was pretty scary. I didn’t really realise that the course was open to anyone, regardless of what they were in for. The prison students all seemed to be really big, burly guys at first and I actually thought I was going to pass out the first time we went as I was very nervous. It took a few sessions to feel confident. Creative writing involved pairing off, going to deep points of our past, and thinking about old feelings. We were encouraged to think of it being a learning space that we could be vulnerable in, so everyone eventually let down their guards – on both sides. It was an amazing opportunity and situation to find ourselves in. My understanding is that education courses in prison are very hit or miss. They might not always be consistently available, so Amy bringing in experts is pretty cutting edge. The prison writers were very appreciative of our time – it really meant a lot.


student research

Monitoring seal populations in the polar regions Fitzwilliam PhD candidate Prem Gill (Polar Studies 2018) tells Nicola Collenette about his research.


“We can finally do continent-wide surveys to find out distribution and abundance of any hard-to-reach animals,” he says.

He has worked alongside the Alan Turing Institute, led a European Space Agency talk in front of 140 people and held a workshop attended by climate change leader Terry Callaghan, a Nobel Prize winner and personal hero of Prem’s.

“The resolution of my satellite images is so high that we can even see blood stains on the sea ice from a seal giving birth – all the way from space. We are looking at building a tool to confidently identify prime areas for breeding so conservation and management efforts can be more focused.”

ince starting at British Antarctic Survey as a research student last year, Fitzwilliam College postgraduate Prem Gill has had a number of career highs.

He has also had his research included on the BBC on the Earth from Space programme. Using state of the art, very high-resolution satellite and drone images, Prem and his team monitor Antarctic seals in order to find out information on their abundance and habitat preferences. He says: “We don’t really know the true seal population size and have a poor understanding of habitat preferences Before this project, most seal studies have involved people going out in boats or planes trying to count them manually. “That’s good for places on land but the sea ice zone is very dangerous to access and the scale of it is enormous – in winter its maximum extent is twice the size of Europe so there is no way of accurately counting all the populations.” Now the resolution of the images taken by drones or satellites is high enough to see individual seals. P24 FITZWILLIAM COLLEGE NEWSLETTER

Prem studied Marine Geography at Cardiff University and was working in an Oxfam call centre before applying to Cambridge to do his PhD. He says: “My parents are from the Punjab in India. It’s an agricultural region which unfortunately in recent years has suffered a number of socioeconomic issues which contribute to limited opportunities for a number of young people. Education, in particular, can often come at a cost. “For me it was a choice that others don’t have – I was lucky enough to have been born in the UK. I got a First and award for best-performing student at Cardiff. “I feel guilty if I don’t use these opportunities in life that others don’t have and I really want to be able to help other working class people in their future.” Prem was brought up in Reading, and alongside his sister was the first generation

in immediate family to attend university. He says: “As a kid you may be told that if you’re not immediately good at something within the classroom, that it’s just not your natural strength – you’re not a maths guy or a science guy.

“What many of us don’t realise is that others might have help at home and are constantly learning outside the classroom through even seemingly small things, such as educated parents passing down their own favourite childhood books. “My family sacrificed so much and put so much hard work into giving us opportunities I wanted to make sure that I did well. I really wanted to make sure that my education was so good that it enabled a level playing field. “For my PhD application I put Fitzwilliam College as my first choice. It was established to allow people who traditionally couldn’t go to Cambridge the opportunity to go. Because of that it makes me want to represent Fitz.” Next on his career bucket list is travelling to Svalbard – a Norwegian archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole, a wilderness where author Philip

Pullman set His Dark Materials trilogy.

and the planet as a whole.”

Prem says: “I’m going to be working at an Arctic research station where there are more polar bears than humans. You can’t leave the main city unless you’ve had training on how to shoot a rifle.

As a postgraduate student Prem enjoys the freedom to control what he decides to study, and that he can structure his own day and attend undergraduate lectures if they are of interest.

“My mum doesn’t understand why I’m so excited to go and she gets nervous when I tell her about rifle training – my poor mum is petrified for me so I should really stop teasing her about the dangers.

He says: “However, it can be fairly isolating too as you don’t have the cohort in the same way as an undergraduate might as you’re more linked to the department rather than the College.

“I’ll be on a small boat doing marine sampling within a fjord and on ice doing radar surveys of the glacier to find out how it’s retreating.

“I have recently started up a new network for minorities in Polar research and science – the reason that I am doing that is there’s not many BAME people in these fields and I want to change that.”

“There have been some upsetting, but not entirely shocking, headlines about Okjökull in Iceland, the first glacier lost to climate crisis. We’re all watching the window of opportunity slip beneath our feet. It’s now or never for protecting our polar regions –

Get in touch with @PolarPrem on Twitter to find out more about the network that Prem is setting up.


The year in music Cat Groom, our Director of Music, reports.


he first week of May saw the Auditorium transformed by a fine rotating set built by the gifted Bob Devonshire of the Maintenance Department, and by foliage supplied by the Gardening team. This was for a dazzling fully-staged production, set in the 1950s with geometric prints and Mediterranean projected skies, of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro by Fitzwilliam Chamber Opera. Sung in the hilarious Jeremy Sams translation, this was an almost all-Fitz production in terms of the principals, chorus, orchestra and production. The Musical Director was postgraduate student Pierre Riley, and the Director was Paul Schlesinger (History 1978) who has since gone on to be Head of BBC Radio Comedy and to produce award-winning television such as Twenty Twelve and W1A. Also on a theatrical note, a slick and impressive student-led Musical Theatre showcase (directed by Caolan McConnaughie and conducted by Abigail Birch) took place in Lent Term under the umbrella of the newly-reconstituted Fitz Theatre Society. We welcomed Honorary Fellow Humphrey Burton CBE to discuss his biographical work on Leonard Bernstein, with student musical examples including an impressive take on the phenomenally difficult ‘Glitter and be Gay’ from Abi Crook and the Missa Brevis and the West Side Story Choral Suite from the Choir. Professional invited musicians to Fitz have included the Alvor Ensemble, Pop-Up Opera with their dark take on Carmen, the Fitzwilliam String Quartet and folk duo the Askew Sisters. A regular fixture has been the weekly FCMS recital series; performances have ranged from duo improvisation for tabla and Celtic harp, to a compositional venture for clarinet and piano entitled ‘Chemistry Experiments’, via folk, chamber P26 FITZWILLIAM COLLEGE NEWSLETTER

music, singer-songwriting, Flanders & Swann and everything in between. One concert marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Henry Walford Davies, Fitz alumnus and Master of the King’s Music 1934-41. Many formal student recitals by fine soloists have taken place in both the Auditorium and Chapel. Fitz is home to an extraordinarily strong crop of student pianists this year, and we have enjoyed some fine full-length recitals from Pierre Riley, Sam Hartley and Susanna Pointer. An all-postgraduate trio consisting of Pierre Riley (piano), Maurits Houck (clarinet) and Constantin Kilcher (cello) worked over a long period of time on Brahms’s introspective and romantic Trio for clarinet, cello and piano. They gave an electrifying performance of the work – along with works by Schumann and Schubert – to a packed Chapel in early June. Other concerts involving student performers have included the Freshers’ Concert, a Christmas concert, thematic concerts of concertos and of operatic arias, the Choir in an all-Britten programme and the Orchestra-on-theHill’s annual concert at Fitz. Termly events such as the Graduate Salon of music and poetry in the SCR, and Gin & Jazz nights in the Bar, have remained popular, as have the student-led Fitz Sessions. The annual Barbers & Sirens ‘Cheese & Wine’ evening and the Music Society Garden Party (on this occasion incorporated into the wider student-led ‘Billy Day’ celebrations) ended the year on a high note. Outreach remains an important facet of music-making in College and we have welcomed many young musicians this year, including Viola Day and the Young Women’s Conducting Workshop.

A Music Reunion Weekend was held in March, involving simultaneous rehearsals and a subsequent shared performance by past-and-present Barbers, past-andpresent Sirens and a Scratch Choir; a formal dinner; jazz in the Bar from Fitz Swing; a shared brunch; chamber music-making; a research presentation by current postgraduate students and a come-and-sing service in Chapel conducted and accompanied by past-andpresent Organ and Conducting & Musical Leadership Scholars.

For all things music at Fitzwilliam, visit: fitz.cam.ac.uk/college-life/ music

Books by members THE WANDERING VINE


Nina Caplan (MML 1992) March 2018 | Bloomsbury

Jennie Hogan (Theology and Religious Studies 2001) February 2018 | Canterbury Press Norwich

Winner Of The Fortnum & Mason Food And Drink Awards Debut Drink Book Of The Year 2019. ‘Wine is alive, ageing and changing, but it’s also a triumph over death. These grapes should rot. Instead they ferment.’

A true story of sickness and health and resilient good humour, This Is My Body is an affirming spirituality of the body that challenges contemporary obsession with physical image. Jennie’s memoirs about her brain injury, recovery and disability will resonate deeply with all who struggle with weakness and vulnerability.

Nina Caplan follows the vine into the past, wandering from Champagne’s ancient chalk to the mountains of Campania.


MANDALAY MiMi Aye (Law 1998) August 2019 | Bloomsbury

Alpa Parmar (SPS 1997) et al. (eds) March 2018 | Oxford University Press In an era of mass mobility, those who are permitted to migrate and those who are criminalized, controlled, and prohibited from migrating are heavily patterned by race.

The food of Burma is little known, but MiMi seeks to change that, revealing its secrets and providing context to each recipe with stories from her time in Burma and her family’s heritage.

By placing race at the centre of its analysis, this volume brings together 14 essays scrutinising criminal justice and migration control.

Endorsed by Nigella Lawson, her recipes include fritters, rice and noodles, salads, meat and fish and sweet snacks, bringing a taste of Burma to your kitchen.

MOUNTAINS AND MOUNTAIN CREATURES Cait Mack (Land Economy 2013) June 2018 | mmcreatures.hotglue.me Illustrator Cait Mack has brought to life mythological creatures she imagines living in New Zealand’s mountain ranges and lakes. Animals featured include a giant octopus, a griffin-type creature, and Matas, a beast with characteristics similar to a dragon. Printed in small batches and distributed online and independent bookshops.

IF THEY KNEW Joanne Sefton (Law 1998) November 2018 | Harper Collins A gripping family drama of love and betrayal. Nobody in Barbara Marsden’s family knows about her past, but someone wants the truth to come out. What really happened all those years ago? And who is going to end up paying the price? When a sinister note is found at Barbara’s house, her daughter Helen is determined to find out who sent it, but soon realises her search might hurt her family - and put her mother at risk. P27 FITZWILLIAM COLLEGE NEWSLETTER


Issue 25 | 2019

FITZWILLIAM COLLEGE NEWSLETTER Editors: Nicola Collenette (Communications Officer) Matt McGeehan (Development Officer) Editorial advisors: Dr Nicola Jones (Development Director) Donna Thomas-Watson (Deputy Development Director)

Forthcoming events 2019 9 November - Careers Fair 14 November - Foundation Lecture - see page 03 29 November - MML Dinner 12 December - Varsity Rugby Union Match, Twickenham

2020 E: optima@fitz.cam.ac.uk W: fitz.cam.ac.uk/optima Cover: Master Sally Morgan (photograph by Martin Bond) Photography: Martin Bond, Nicola Collenette and Dr John Cleaver

March - London Drinks May - London Dinner 13 June - May Bumps finale 13 June - 1869 Foundation Event 4 July - 1970–2020 Golden Matriculation Reunion 11 September - Fitz Golf Day TBC 25–27 September - 86th Reunion Weekend

The magazine’s wrapping film uses natural biopolymers, consisting mainly of potato and maize starch, which are fully sustainable. There is no polythene in this product so when it degrades there are no microplastics left in the soil/watercourse. It conforms to EN13432 so its fully compostable in your household compost heap.

See the website for more details: www.fitz.cam.ac.uk/alumni or contact Carol Lamb at events@fitz.cam.ac.uk Are your contact details correct?

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Optima 25  

From Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. Contents include: Access and Widening Participation - reports from our conference Meet the new Master...

Optima 25  

From Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. Contents include: Access and Widening Participation - reports from our conference Meet the new Master...