Newnham Family Forum

A discussion forum for all those interested in contemporary issues affecting families, in particular mothers.


We are unique amongst Cambridge Colleges in discussing contemporary issues affecting families (and mothers in particular). Each October we host a lively forum where everyone can explore complex topics and learn from experts in specific fields (as well as from each other): we encourage an atmosphere of inclusivity, and welcome alumnae and their guests, male or female, to join us. Subjects to date have included:

  • Mental Health and Young People
  • Modern Families in the 21st Century
  • Fatherhood
  • The Challenges of Raising Teenagers
  • Issues Affecting Working Mothers.

This year’s Newnham Family Forum will take place on 7 October 2023. The title is ‘The promise and peril of social media in the family. Parenting children in the age of technology.’

Our expert speakers; Dr Georgina Bhattacharyya (NC 1994), Emma Hardy, Dr Amanda Ferguson and Laura Sercombe, will share their knowledge and experiences, offering practical tips on how to harness the benefits and mitigate the risks. The day will conclude at approximately 3.00pm following a panel discussion with questions from the floor.

All welcome.

You can listen to podcasts (and read our reports) from our previous Family Forum events here:

  • 2014: ‘Something In Between?’: Are you an Earth Mother or a Career Supremo? Many of our alumnae feel that they are neither – or rather, that they fall somewhere in between the two extremes. We welcomed speakers who shared their experiences of interrupted careers, volunteering, second starts, working in the community, unplanned hiatus and working around families.
  • 2015: ‘Fathers & Fatherhood’: We stepped outside the gender box to debate the arguments from the other side of the fence. We explored the roles of men as working husbands, house-husbands and husbands overshadowed by working women, and invited men to the platform who have experience of this conundrum.
  • 2016: ‘Modern Families in the 21st Century’: What’s important to a child’s well-being and development? Is it the form of family structure that matters, the style of parenting, whether or not they have one or two parents, the method of their conception, the quality of the family relationships or the biological relatedness to, or the gender of, their parent(s)?
  • 2017: ‘Mental Health and Young People’: The number of under-eighteen-year-olds who have been diagnosed with mental health conditions has risen dramatically in recent years: are our children struggling more, or are we more aware of issues as they arise? We heard from experts in cognitive psychology and family psychiatry, the developer of an award-winning app designed to give struggling children a voice at school, a teacher and co-ordinator of a sixth form peer mentor initiative and a sixth-form student who has been a member of a peer mentor group and engaged directly with mental health services as a young person. For the panel in the afternoon our speakers were joined by Elrika Erasmus, one of Newnham’s two on-site counsellors.
  • 2018: ‘Sex, Sex and yet more Sex’: In 2018 the focus of the Newnham Family Forum was Sexualisation, particularly in relation to young people. This is a highly relevant topic at the moment, as we negotiate the new challenges of social media, internet advertising, web pornography and more with our children, grandchildren, students and dependents. The audience heard from three experts in the field: the second Children’s Commissioner for England, Professor Maggie Atkinson; Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who conducted an independent review of Sexualisation of Young People for the Home Office and Natasha Devon MBE, a writer & activist, who tours schools and colleges throughout the UK, delivering talks as well as conducting research on mental health, body image, gender and social equality.
  • 2019: ‘The Sandwich Generation‘: In 2019 the topic of discussion at the Newnham Family Forum was ‘The Sandwich Generation’: those who are caring for ageing relatives and dependent children. This topic is highly relevant as it affects many individuals already, and this number will only continue to grow as population demographics change with the rise of life expectancy, adding to the number of elderly in the UK’s population. The audience heard from Professor Debora Price, broadcaster and journalist Fiona Phillips, Dr Jo Withers (NC 1984) and panelist Michelle Greening.