A NEW university in Cornwall could become a testbed for regional credit accumulation and transfer, its supporters say.
Managers at Exeter University, which has hit problems in setting up a campus at Treireife in Penzance, say Cornwall's students will only be served properly if all higher education institutions in the area work together.
John Inkson, Exeter's deputy vice-chancellor, said: "We will end up with a distributed number of facilities across Cornwall but with fairly close linkage between them, so perhaps students can move between institutions in the course of their degree."
Exeter, which must exercise its option to buy land in Penzance by the end of the month, is still struggling to raise enough cash.
As The THES went to press, Penwith district council was meeting to decide whether to allow the university use of Pounds 1 million, originally promised to pay infrastructure costs, to buy the site.
The university's original plan for a Pounds 70 million Cornwall campus had to be dropped last year when the university failed to secure Pounds 33 million of millennium money.
A bid for Pounds 10 million from the European Union's regional development fund is also back on the drawing board after the government expressed doubts about where the rest of the money was coming from.
Exeter vice-chancellor Geoffrey Holland said the university was committed to Treireife, including a plan to move Camborne School of Mines that has caused uproar because of job loss fears.
But losing millennium money meant it would be "a staged project rather than a grand slam millennium project". Plans to extend distance learning and develop arts and social sciences will be delayed.
He said it was likely to depend on Exeter, Plymouth and Falmouth School of Art and Design co-operating - an idea backed by environment minister Richard Caborn and education secretary David Blunkett.
Sir Geoffrey said: "Caborn and Blunkett are showing considerable interest, in the context of a regional development agency, about how they can involve all the HE providers in working under the same arrangements on providing for people in Cornwall and doing so pretty quickly."
John Bull, Plymouth vice-chancellor, said: "We have always said that the way ahead is to look for a distributed campus in which various partners collaborate." But he said Plymouth would want to be an equal partner.
Alan Livingston, principal of Falmouth School of Art and Design, said: "We have an open mind about whether we would respond to working with one or both of Plymouth and Exeter. It would depend on their commitment to provision in Cornwall being backed up by money."