The story so far...
In 2013, following years of discussion, the Officer team wanted to show senior University staff that a good Students’ Union building would enable students to have a better time at University, and that it would benefit the campus overall.
The Activities Officer and the President at the time took the Vice-Chancellor and other senior managers from the University to see Leeds and Sheffield Students’ Union buildings in order to show them the potential for improvement in Nottingham. After continued discussion, it was then agreed by the University Executive Board that there would be a £15m investment into Portland to create a brilliant building for students.
Because Portland is such a busy building (sometimes attracting 18,000 through it a day!) there was no way of closing to do the development. Instead, the work was phased over 4 years, mainly over summer periods.
So what was wrong with Portland, and who was consulted in making changes?
Portland is a big and a pretty important building, so we needed to make sure we had some solid research to back up any decisions we made. Back in 2014, a company called Crowd DNA carried out an independent research project, working with hundreds of participants to discover what Nottingham students would like from their Students’ Union building. The research was so good that it won an award. Not only did it include current students at the time, but also researched sixth-form students too. That way, it included the needs of the next University generation.
What were the findings?
Time in Portland was largely only functional for students – grabbing a coffee, using a meal card, picking up a meal deal. Students tended to go to other places as a social hub, and said that campus lacked a focal point for student-ownership and socialisation. Furthermore, the building as it was didn’t make sense in its layout – services were in random locations around the building, it was difficult to navigate and it lacked social meeting spaces.
It was decided that the primary focus for Portland should be to create a building that would meet the needs of students outside of teaching. Whether that’s meeting your society, going for a coffee with a friend, or finding a quiet spot for catching up on uni work – it all needed to be possible in Portland.