As campaigners for a University of the Highlands and Islands wait to find out in September if their bid for more than Pounds 25 million from the Millennium Commission has been successful, the drive to establish a University of South West Scotland has been given a boost by Glasgow University's announcement that it intends to establish a college in Dumfries.
The plan has stolen a march on Paisley and Napier Universities, which have a presence in the area. Glasgow says its proposals address the problems of creating a new university from scratch. The new college would have the option of emerging as an independent higher education institution through time.
Sir Graeme Davies, principal of Glasgow University, said the university had long-standing links with the south-west through extramural courses.
If the venture goes according to plan, the first students would enrol in October 1998 and numbers would build to 600 after three or four years. Courses would be in the arts and sciences only, with a mix of part-time and full-time studies. The college would be based on the Crichton Estate in Dumfries.
The campaign for a university in the south-west is headed by Dumfries and Galloway Council, the local enterprise company, the two further education colleges, voluntary organisations and Crichton Development.
Jim Neil, principal of Dumfries and Galloway College, said the Glasgow initiative complemented current and future links his college had with Napier and Paisley, which went beyond arts and science courses.
The Scottish Office is said to be taking a neutral view at present although, as with early responses to the Highland project, officials clearly remain to be convinced.
A statement to The TES Scotland this week said: "We need to consider the full academic, economic and financial implications in the first instance. The options need further development and discussion and we are content for interested parties to pursue their analysis and planning.
"Any university wishing to establish a new satellite college in Dumfries would need to consult the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council at an early stage."
Meanwhile the leaders of the Highland initiative move to an important stage of the development next week when they advertise for a chief executive. The post, which carries a salary of Pounds 45,000-Pounds 55,000, will go to someone with experience of project management at the highest levels. The advertisement does not stipulate that applicants have an academic background.