Portland Redevelopment

A space about students, for students. A self-created student experience with access to all key Students’ Union and University services


Why are the Student’ Union and University redeveloping the Portland building?

  • Improving student experience
  • Re-defining the purpose of the Portland building
  • Understand and responding to student needs and wants from social spaces and services

Purpose of the building

  • A hub for student experience containing and signposting to all major students services
  • 24/7 communal space to relax, socialise, study and engage - a space that enables students to do this all at once
  • Reflect everything that’s going on in the University and Union
  • A place of varied space where all students can mix


There are three key areas that underpin the student at the heart of the experience.

  • Social – a place to spend time, meet friends, learn, as well as relax, clearly separate from other areas of the buildings and campus
  • Flexible – planned but organic, easy to change areas and rooms to meet the needs of the students
  • Functional – a zoned building to encourage flow, providing the relevant technological support (not a focal point)

Balanced to deliver the best combination – a self-created student experience with access to all key University and Union services.

Portland Redevelopment

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.

Project Timeline

  • CrowdDNA Student Research.
    Find out more
  • Crowd DNA Student Research wins national award
    Find out more
  • The Studio opened to students as a space for student groups and activities.
    Find out more
  • Back of house staff office spaces was completed and opened.
  • Mooch Terrace and Peace garden (in front of URN) opened.
  • Theatre Gardens opened
  • The front entrance to the Portland building was extended to allow for more traffic and the big screen was installed.
    Find out more
  • Work starts on Phase 3 in Portland building.

The Building

Explore what is happening on each floor



Latest updates

Check out before and after photos, video and articles on the project to date.

Portland Update October 2017

Find out the latest on the Portland Redevelopment and what you can expect in the near future. Find out more.

Phase 3 work started on Portland

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.

Find out more

Portland Update July 2017

The Portland Building refurbishment has been ongoing now since the beginning of May and, aside from the normal issues faced by any building works and trying not to get in your way too much, is steadily progressing. You may have noticed that more and more of the building has been hidden behind boards for the next round of improvements, presenting a significant difference when moving around the building, but come September, it will all have been worth it!

Find out more

More news...

Want to get involved?

Want the chance to have your say and get a little bit more involved in the Portland changes? Send us your details below and we’ll be in touch.