Universities across the United Kingdom are being invited to tender for the contract to run the Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth.
Any university can apply to run the academy but it will have to demonstrate that it can pro-vide residential summer schools for bright 11 to 16-year-olds.
The academy will target the country's most academically able children. Intensive three-week summer schools for the top 5 per cent of pupils will be piloted in the summer of 2003, covering mainstream subjects as well as topics such as archaeology.
A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills, which will operate the academy in partnership with the successful university, said: "The university will be actually running the academy, providing staffing, facilities, administration, support and ideas."
He said pre or post-92 sector institutions could apply. "We are not going to discriminate against any university that thinks it could provide a good base."
A collaboration between universities would be possible in principle, although one lead university would have to be identified. "There has to be one base and headquarters," the spokesman said.