Essex University has entered into negotiations with the University of East Anglia to give momentum to proposals for a university in Suffolk, writes Caroline Davis.
The talks, although at an early stage, are focused on a jointly run higher education institution based in Ipswich's redeveloped Waterfront area. A joint proposal from the universities is due to be published next month.
UEA had been considering plans for an 8,000-student campus in Ipswich for some time, but had concerns about the funding available for higher education over coming years.
There are already 3,500 undergraduates at Suffolk College of Further Education in Ipswich whose degrees are accredited by UEA.
But David Eastwood, vice-chancellor of UEA, said that despite three surveys showing there was significant untapped demand in the area for higher education places, the Higher Education Funding Council for England indicated that no new student places would be available.
He said: "There has been a long-standing desire within Suffolk to expand higher education provision. But as far as the universities are concerned, the discussions are at an early stage."
A spokesman for Essex confirmed that the university had been asked to join discussions with UEA and Suffolk College.
Ipswich's city and borough councils are pushing for a separate university for the region, which is one of a handful of English counties that does not have one.
James Hehir, chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council, said the area already housed four postgraduate centres as well as benefiting from many high-tech start-up companies.
Mr Hehir said: "We have wanted a proper university for a long time. UEA and Essex University complement each others' strengths. It would be a really good way of having a quick start."
The joint venture could be modelled along similar lines to the Combined University of Cornwall or the proposed University of Cumbria. It would also include the East of England Development Agency.