The Greenock-based college intends to open a 40-room, two-storey building for 3,000 to 4,000 students in April 1998 in the Howgate area of Kilwinning. It will be similar in size and style to the showpiece Waterfront building which James Watt College recently opened on the banks of the Clyde.
North Ayrshire Council, which owns the Howgate site, claims that the absence of FE is one of the factors inhibiting economic development in the area.
James Clements, leader of North Ayrshire Council, says they would have preferred the development took place within the Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston area but Kilwinning was the college's choice. Good transport links would allow students to travel easily to Kilwinning, from as far afield as Glasgow and Ayr.
James Watt is not the only college which is developing sites in other towns; Angus College, based at Ardbroath, has just opened an FE centre in a converted groundfloor supermarket in Montrose. It offers a full-time National Certificate course in office administration and a range of business and leisure courses.
Judith Belford, assistant principal of Angus College, says that the college has been "swamped with demand" and has already been forced to run extra classes on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings.
Poor transport links had made students reluctant to travel the 13 miles from Montrose to Arbroath, according to the college. Many young people also believed that colleges were "awash with greasy youths or people flinging scarves over their shoulders and talking about philosophy," said Ms Belford.
Angus college already has an off-campus site in Forfar, which it intends to expand, and it also plans to develop a tele-learning centre in Kirriemuir.