Research suggests that up to 30 per cent of local fifth-year pupils are able to take a degree but do not go on to university.The aim of the Crichton campus is to have 600 students by October, just five years after the site was first acquired by a local partnership which includes the council and local enterprise company.
A higher education presence in the area is not new. Dumfries and Galloway College has had links with Paisley University for five years, enabling students taking higher national certificate and diploma courses in the college to go on to university degree courses. Glasgow University also offered college tudents a fast track to its BA degree in liberal arts and humanities.
So far the higher education institutions have avoided too much overlap. Glasgow concentrates on the arts and adults, Paisley has business studies, and Bell will offer nurse training and health studies.
"We are pinning a lot of hopes on the Crichton development," says Fraser Sanderson, the council's director of education. "It should unlock the potential that undoubtedly exists in many parts of the region where, either because of transport problems or whatever, people could not take advantage of higher education."
Mr Sanderson says that increasingly students had been travelling daily to and from Glasgow because they could not afford the costs of living away from home.
The council's education department also sees potential for its staff working on projects with the universities' education faculties. Glasgow now includes the former St Andrew's teacher training college while Paisley trains teachers at its Craigie campus in Ayr.