The University of Ulster has voiced dismay at the Government's failure to announce a go-ahead for the much vaunted peaceline campus in West Belfast.
The university warned that vital opportunities to raise funds for the Springvale campus are being hampered by the delay. It said the Government's own feasibility study was expected at the end of February, with an announcement in mid-March.
The opportunities include the bidding time necessary for a series of applications for European Union funds, the peace dividend from Europe and the United States following the paramilitary ceasefires eight months ago and President Clinton's major economic conference on Northern Ireland in Washington later this month.
The Northern Ireland Office said a verdict on the ambitious Pounds 98 million plan will be given later this year. Wallace Ewart, head of the Springvale project said: "I would be worried if it dragged on to the autumn because it would upset our timetable and might create doubts among investors.
"We will apply for various funds but unfortunately we cannot tell them if the project has Government approval yet. I don't see anything Machiavellian but it is disappointing not to have a decision now. It's a shame the study was not started sufficiently early to enable the original timetable to be adhered to."
The university has brought in a firm of specialist fundraisers, Oxford Philanthropy, which has already raised some Pounds 300 million for developments at Oxford University.
The move is seen as an admission by UU that the project will not be fully funded by taxpayers.
The Northern Ireland office said the scale of the proposal had meant the economic appraisal was highly complex and had taken longer to complete than expected. "But we are confident that we will have the report from the consultants by early summer which would enable a decision to be taken."