University’s proud history ingrained in future-looking £150m student village

The University of Leicester gave a nod to its past as it looked to the future when unveiling its new student village.

A day of celebration was held on Monday 24 October as the University officially launched its £150m Freemen’s development, located in Welford Road, Leicester.

The landmark regeneration project has seen derelict halls of residence and an open-air car park transformed into a high-tech centre for teaching, working and living.

As part of the launch, seven new student residences were officially named after those who have a deep and abiding connection with Leicester, the University, and who have made a vital and positive contribution. 

Each is an inspirational figures for inclusivity, equality, empowerment and celebrating our heritage of kindness.

Michael Attenborough CBE, pictured, was in attendance to launch the residence bearing the name of his grandmother, Mary Attenborough, a philanthropist who focused on the safety and education of refugee children during the time of war.

The University’s first black and female Students’ Union President, Esua Goldsmith, unveiled the residence which bears her name. Professor Sir Geoff Palmer, a pioneering researcher, Scotland’s first black professor and a human rights and race equality champion, was also present to unveil his namesake building.

The remaining residences were named after: botanist Winifred Pennington, who was part of a new generation of respected women in research; Mary Gee who promoted access to healthcare and education; shining star of astrophysics, Heather Couper, and Mary McIntosh, a pioneering sociologist and LGBT+ rights activist.

Read more about the people honoured by having Freemen’s buildings named after them.

The opening of the Sir Bob Burgess Building, named after the University’s former late Vice-Chancellor, was marked with a memorial lecture. Professor Christina Hughes gave her personal reflections on Bob’s academic background, while Professor John Goodwin spoke about Bob’s research and sociological legacy. Professor Henrietta O’Connor closed the lecture by describing Bob’s approach to interdisciplinarity.

The building comprises two large lecture theatres, flexible teaching spaces and a state of the art space for staff to work, meet and relax.

The building is a fitting tribute to Sir Bob, who presided over one of the University’s most successful periods between 1999 and 2014. Read Sir Bob’s tribute on our website.

The day was concluded with a ceremony to mark the overall launch of the site, including remarks from University President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nishan Canagarajah; Students’ Union President, Rhiannon Jenkins, and City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby.

Kerry Law, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Professional Services), said: “Monday’s launch was an incredibly poignant event as we celebrated our rich heritage with the naming of the buildings after some inspirational figures associated with the University. Each is a true Citizen of Change.

“Freemen’s builds on this legacy as we embark on our second centenary in a real position of strength. The first-class facilities demonstrate how seriously we take the student experience here at Leicester, and it’s been delightful to see the excitement of both students and staff as they get to know their new home.”

Freemen’s includes accommodation for 1,200 students, a social hub including a food outlet and bar and a 555-space multi-storey car park. The project has also seen the sensitive refurbishment and extension of the Grade II-listed Freemen’s Cottages as the centrepiece of the scheme.

The new buildings are set within an impressive landscaping scheme of tree-lined walking routes, wildflower planting and gardens, with two generous public spaces providing a focal point.

Freemen’s was delivered by the University, equity partner and constructor EQUANS and funding partner Equitix.