The City of Sunderland Partnership launched the bid at the prestigious Stadium of Light, venue of soccer first division leaders, Sunderland.
The University for Industry is designed to encourage lifelong learning by making education more accessible through computers and the Internet and will be launched in 2000.
The main competition to Sunderland comes from Sheffield and Swindon but others may be putting their hats in the ring. Sunderland, however, is the front-runner.
Since last year the north-east has run the UFI pilot led by the University of Sunderland and the Institute for Public Policy Research, and has attracted more than 6,000 registrations for lifelong learning.
Helen Milner, project manager for the UFI pilot said: "In just a short space of time, thousands of people have benefited from the pilot scheme. Since it was launched last year we have established 35 learning centres all over the region - from the Metro Centre's Learning World to the Sports Bar at the Stadium of Light - which offer people easy access to our education programmes."