There are plenty of other nice areas in Nottingham, in addition to Mapperley Park and The Park. However, I agree that there is a lack of decent alternatives to Lenton, for students wishing to rent a property close to campus. This is because:
-There are no houses to the north, south or east of University Park campus (instead, there is Wollaton Park, Dunkirk Industrial Estate and QMC respectively).
-To the northwest of campus lies Wollaton and Bramcote, which are very nice suburban areas, but contain mostly 'middle-class' owner-occupied family homes, with very few houses available for anyone (let alone students) to rent.
-To the southwest, there is Beeston which is quieter and has less crime compared to Lenton, but it's a boring place and still not very nice. There is also Lenton Abbey, which is a very run-down council estate, so NO!!!
-To the south east, there is Dunkirk, which, in my opinion is much worse than Lenton.
-To the north east, there is the eastern part of Wollaton, which is a mixed residential area. This includes Adam's Hill (located just opposite North Entrance, hidden behind the brick wall), which is the most expensive street in Nottingham, with HUGE and beautiful family homes worth around £1 million; but once again nearly all are owner-occupied so are not available to rent. Similarly, there are a lots of nice houses located along and near Wollaton Hall Drive and Oundle Drive, but generally only available for sale. The areas around Middleton Boulevard and Orston Drive contain mostly council and ex-council houses, and are much less pleasant that the rest of Wollaton (perhaps this is why you think that Wollaton is a scum-hole - the rest of Wollaton is actually very nice).
-Properties in Nottingham are very cheap to buy - and this is very feasible if you you rent out a few rooms to your friends. This can help overcome the problem of the lack of rental housing in nice residential areas such as Wollaton and Adams Hill.
-There are some relatively nicer parts of Lenton - e.g. Lenton Village (around Heron Drive), the northern ends of Harlaxton/Harrington Drives, Arnesby Road, although they still contain a fair amount of crime. Also, if anything, Lenton is far nicer and safer than Radford, and virtually all of your neighbours will be students (apart from those chavs living in the tower blocks).
-Castle Marina is still quite close to campus and has some very nice apartments, and is a gated community, so there isn't much crime. Although landlords are not allowed to let properties to students, there is nothing to stop you from buying an apartment yourself (I have a few friends who have done this).
-If you have a car, you can easily rent a place in the Park and drive onto campus (although you're unlikely to get a parking permit, there are plenty of ways to overcome that problem...).
-I disagree that the university should provide more self-catering accommodation on campus. Anymore development and the campus will become less attractice. Besides, there is already the option of living in Broadgate Park for all three years, and plenty of international students do that.
Overall, I consider Nottingham to be a very nice city (and this is coming from someone who grew up in a very nice part of London). Nottingham has plenty of designer shops (esp. along Bridlesmith Gate), lots of decent restaurants (including one which is Michelin-starred), lots of swanky bars, and plenty of nice houses and apartments (whether close to the city centre, e.g. The Park, or in the suburbs). Also, I've found that apart from weekends, I can call a taxi and it will arrive within 10 minutes (and often five minutes), so transport is not an issue. I have to admit, though, that living in Nottingham has turned out to be a lot more expensive than I originally anticipated, and I often spend more money on nights out here than in London. Also, despite Nottingham's reputation for crime, I feel much safer living here than in London.
OK - I'm getting carried away (I love this subject and scored close to full marks in A-Level geography) - should really be revising law right now.