The University has successfully gained planning permission to build a luxury hotel near the west entrance of University Park, with building ideally scheduled to start in Easter 2007. Although still in the infant stages of planning, the university has been intending a project of this kind for approximately fifteen years. This project seems to make financial sense, as the university may take a small fixed sum of profit to spend on improving aspects of core university services. However, Graham Ward, the University of Nottingham’s commercial director says the motivation is not a financial one, as the income generated is likely to be minimal; the main objective is rather to “enhance the brand of the University of Nottingham” as there is not a suitable, high quality hotel close enough to the university to service the East Midlands Conference Centre, visiting academics, or parents of students. It is precisely this ‘branding’ of an academic institution that is cause for alarm according to former SU president Mike Baxter who said there were “concerns that the hotel would signify a corporate image. [The University is] primarily a higher education institution”.
Students have also voiced concerns over the loss of the green space in front of Florence Boot Hall, used by student sports teams. Although not ideal, the university has promised to replace any lawns that are lost, and Mike Baxter seems confident that this is not an empty promise, saying “The university [is] usually very good at doing this and we are confident that green space lost will be found elsewhere”. At present the proposal seems to have mixed appeal to the student body: in a recent SU survey 34% of the student body supported the plans, with 46% against and 19% undecided. It will be up to this years’ Exec to ensure students are well informed and that their voices are heard on this issue.