Homerton College marks its 250th year by asking ‘burning questions’

PUBLISHED: 11:54 11 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:54 11 January 2018

Homerton College

Homerton College

Homerton College

On a 25-acre campus on Hills Road, its grandest buildings barely visible from the street, Homerton College is celebrating 250 years of history by throwing open its doors to the public, with a programme of events under the banner Homerton 250: Cambridge Now.

On a 25-acre campus on Hills Road, its grandest buildings barely visible from the street, Homerton College is celebrating 250 years of history by throwing open its doors to the public, with a programme of events under the banner Homerton 250: Cambridge Now.

“It’s all about people”, says Homerton’s principal, professor Geoff Ward. “When it comes down to it, all big ideas are created and adopted by people talking to other people. Every day in Homerton our students, teachers and researchers have some fantastic conversations with each other – about social change, technology, the state of the NHS – and we want to bring others into that conversation.”

If long-lived institutions owe their longevity to frequent reinventions, Homerton would seem to be pretty comfortable with change. Indeed, it has literally moved with the times. Founded in London in 1768, Homerton moved to Cambridge just before 1900. Once an academy for the Nonconformist Church, then a renowned teacher-training college, Homerton has been, since 2010, a full college of the University of Cambridge.

“We’ve never stood still,” says Prof Ward, “and that’s given us a unique character. Some challenges need the weight of a 250-year-old institution to tackle them, and others need the agility of a recent start-up. We’re happy to be both.”

Cambridge’s 31 colleges bring together students and academics from all the university’s many departments and faculties, and create smaller, diverse communities of teachers, learners and researchers – so, to celebrate 2018, we’re asking three ‘burning questions’ that require that sort of integrated approach, combining different academic fields. We’ll ask: what is the future of healthcare? What does it mean to be human? And how do we drive change?”

These burning questions provide the framework for Homerton’s 250th anniversary year, and resonate with other anniversaries. 2018 marks 500 years since the foundation of the Royal College of Physicians, 200 years since the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and 100 years since women could first vote, at the end of the First World War.

Participating in the celebrations will be Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England; Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca; and Dame Evelyn Glennie, the world’s first professional solo percussionist. From Homerton’s own fellowship, healthcare systems researcher Prof Mary Dixon-Woods and oncologist Prof Tim Eisen will be part of a panel discussing the genomics revolution in healthcare, and Prof Ward himself will explore “what it means to be human” through the gothic horror of Frankenstein’s monster.

The first public event, called Action Stations, is set for Saturday, February 10. Imagine a speed-dating format to learn about the future of healthcare. Each ‘station’ will feature researchers demonstrating their particular take on healthcare, from gene editing, to wellbeing in the classroom, to bioengineering, to medical education. Groups start at one station, and after eight minutes move to the next. It’s highly participative and, at the end, there’s a chance to meet the researchers personally and discuss their work in more detail.

Registration will open soon – and tickets are limited to 100.

You can sign up for updates for this and the other Homerton 250th anniversary events at homerton250.org.

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