The Scottish Government has waived the normal requirement for the putative university in the Highlands and Islands (UHI) to have a full research capability.
The Government has launched a consultation on the merits of having a university in the north of Scotland. It is almost the final stage of a lengthy process which began in 1992. The partnership of 13 FE colleges and research centres became a higher education institution in 2001.
The UHI was granted the power to award its own taught degrees in 2008, but it is not yet at the stage where it can do so for research - normally a prerequisite for being granted the full title of "university".
The UHI bid to be awarded the university title will have its "research potential" backed by the universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Strathclyde. This would bind UHI to a timescale for achieving the right to award research degrees.
The Scottish Government believes such a guarantee should be sufficient for the Privy Council in London, which will take the final decision based on the recommendation of Scottish ministers. Their response will be influenced by a special "scrutiny panel" of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, which is expected to report to ministers in December.
The Scottish Government argues that a special dispensation should be allowed for the UHI application, "given the particular benefits that a university in the Highlands and Islands would provide to the economy and society of the region, as well as enhancing the area's unique cultural distinctiveness".