Exeter University is pushing ahead with its plans for a Cornwall campus despite the cap on higher education expansion.
The project's steering group this week announced a shortlist of 12 sites, narrowed down from 47 possible locations nominated by landowners and agents.
The list will be whittled down to three or four by October with a decision expected next spring.
The plan has received widespread support and positive feedback from ministers and funding agencies, but will not get the green light unless the Government lifts its moratorium on expanding student numbers.
John Inkson, Exeter University deputy vice chancellor and chairman of the Cornwall Initiative steering group, said hopes were resting on what the Autumn Statement held this year or next.
"The higher education funding council made it clear that if the lid was lifted on expansion it would want to look seriously at gaps in provision in certain regions, and Cornwall was a prime example of that," he said.
The steering group is hoping to attract backing from the Millennium Fund, central and local government, the European Union, funding agencies, charities and venture capitalists to cover the Pounds 50-Pounds 70 million needed for the project to be realised.