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ACADEMIC VENUESwww.conference-news.co.uk . April 2012 . 9he University of Leeds MeetinLeeds brand has added a year-round conference and fi ne-dining suite in University House to its fl agship residence Storm Jameson Court (460 en suite bedrooms), and leisure facilities. Richard Handscombe, Head of Sales and Marketing, says: "Although comfortable, the rooms at University House were traditional and a bit chintzy. We've swept all this away and created a suite which would grace a top hotel."The trend toward shortening lead times Handscombe illustrates by several large residential events coming to the university just fi ve months out, "something unheard of before the fi nancial crisis," he says. "They are holding on as long as they can before confi rming a budget, and then going for it". Over at the Well Met Conferencing brand, the Leeds Metropolitan University became the fi rst in the UK to get Gold Accredited in Meetings (AIM) certifi cation from the Meetings Industry Association. Well Met has a portfolio of venues, including the Rose Bowl, Carnegie Pavilion, The Grange, Cloth Hall Court and Gandhi Hall. The fl agship fi ve-storey glass structure known as the Rose Bowl has won two design awards since it opened in 2009 and has capacity for 64 to 256 delegates theatre style.Kate Davis, Business Development Manager at Well Met Conferencing, says perceptions of academic venues are beginning to change. "Forget the image of 1970s, academic venues are now fully equipped to compete with some of the leading conference and event venues in the UK and Europe." Leeds Met has invested over £158m in new buildings and accommodation, however public sector business, which always played a large part of the customer base, has diminished. Davis says her team has adapted, working hard on an Ambassador Programme. Chuck out the chintzBoth Leeds universities have shown true Yorkshire grit by investing in their meetings future, upgrading facilities and raising service levelsTop: Richard Handscombe. Above: Leeds Met's Rose BowlT

10 . www.conference-news.co.uk . April 2012ACADEMIC VENUESnce perceived as offering services and facilities that only addressed a limited part of the overall events spectrum, many academic venues have progressively developed to stand alongside conventional venues. Trevor Miller, Conference Sales and Marketing Manager at Leicester Conferences, University of Leicester, explains how his venue moved into the front rank."Few venues have not had to take a very close look at how to deal with the economic downturn."Academic venues sit within a mature industry where organisers are increasingly spoilt for choice. With much improved buying power and choice, organisers have challenged every aspect of what venues have to offer from quality and service, to the signifi cant decider of value for money."Neverthless, a number of universities have raised their profi le and are becoming more recognised as venues of choice alongside hotels and conference centres. Historically, the majority have appealed to particular market areas such as associations and education, mainly due to their ability to host large groups."Many universities have recognised the signifi cant commercial advantage of investing in conference facilities, resulting in dedicated meeting rooms and quality accommodation."Leicester Conferences has been hosting events for over 50 years and now hosts 2,000 a year."Providing customers with value for money, high standard of service, has continued to be our priority," says Miller. "Value for money must go beyond providing a service at a good price. It must focus on truly 'adding value' to the customer experience. We have increased our capacity of dedicated facilities and invested heavily in updating our meeting room technology. Most of our rooms provide built-in AV, including internet-ready PCs, projectors and sound. Our latest venue includes high defi nition projectors with blu-ray players as standard in all rooms. Our meeting rooms also have free Wi-Fi available with free fi xed internet access available in all bedrooms," Miller adds. Raising the standardA vanguard of academic venues have graduated to stand proud alongside hotels and dedicated conference centres in terms of service and productThe new Gilbert Murray hall at Leicester ConferencesOWe've