Plans are under way to bring the Great Hall of Leicester Castle, one of the city’s finest hidden gems, back into use as part of a multi-million pound proposal announced today by De Montfort University (DMU) as part of its long-standing partnership with one of Hong Kong’s largest multi-national companies.
Following generous investment from Dr Jonathan Choi, the Chairman of the Hong Kong–based Sunwah Group and Sunwah Foundation, DMU says it would like to take out a lease on the ancient building, parts of which date back to the 11th century, and restore it for use as the Dr Jonathan KS Choi Business School, which would bring world-renowned academics and international students to the city.
Dr Jonathan Choi has enjoyed a long-standing and fruitful relationship with DMU via the Sunwah International Business School, based at Liaoning University in mainland China, where visiting DMU academic staff have, since 2004, been preparing students for study in Leicester, resulting in more than 1,000 alumni working in China today with strong links to DMU and the city.
Last year Dr Choi announced that the Sunwah Foundation would donate a substantial sum of money to create the Jonathan KS Choi Creative and Cultural Centre within DMU’s £136 million campus redevelopment.
He is now keen to support the university, and Leicester, still further, by helping to build on DMU’s excellent reputation in the field of Business and Management and develop a world-leading business school with global academic links.
The proposals, which are supported by Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, would ensure that the castle and its environs were reinvigorated and allow the university’s campus to extend into the Castle Quarter. They would ensure that the area plays a key role in the Mayor’s Connecting Leicester strategy and turn it into a vital part of the city’s tourist trail, which connects the Leicester of today with its ancient past.
Dr Choi and Vice-Chancellor Professor Shellard breaking the ground for the Cultural and Creative Centre
DMU would ensure that the building, which is such an important monument to Leicester’s medieval past and appears each year on English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk register, would be preserved and maintained.
The university will also explore a range of options for public access to the castle with the City Mayor, including additional ways to link the castle with heritage sites at DMU including Trinity Chapel and the DMU Heritage Centre. The centre will open to the public (entry free of charge) next month and will showcase the history of Leicester in and around the university.
The DMU campus is just a few short steps away from the Grade One and Two-listed Great Hall building via the ancient Castle View walkway, and DMU’s 14th Century Trinity House backs on to the Castle’s Motte.
Professor Dominic Shellard, Vice-Chancellor of De Montfort University, said: “Dr Jonathan Choi is one of our university’s strongest supporters and our shared vision of creating academic excellence that is recognised throughout the globe has led to the proposed creation of the Dr Jonathan KS Choi Business School.
“The Great Hall of Leicester Castle is a landmark building which, with this innovative partnership between DMU, the City Mayor and Sunwah, will be restored for the benefit of our staff and students, as well as for the citizens of Leicester.
“It will provide the flagship home for this dynamic new business school and allow DMU to play its part in further reinvigorating the Castle Quarter on the university’s doorstep.”
Dr Choi said: “This innovative partnership between Sunwah, DMU and Leicester City Council aims to create a world-class business school in the setting of Leicester Castle, one of Leicester’s most significant historical locations. It is my ambition that future global business leaders will be educated right here in the Leicester Castle.”
Sir Peter Soulsby said: “This would be a wonderful way of bringing the Castle Hall back into use and guaranteeing public access to this very important historic building.
"The hall has been locked up for far too long, so I am delighted that DMU is proposing taking responsibility for it and giving it the sustainable future it deserves."
Posted on Friday 20th February 2015