Two new campuses could be created for Moray College UHI as part of an ambitious vision to keep young workers in the region.
The Elgin-based learning centre is approaching capacity at its two existing sites in the town and needs more space to keep up with demand.
Now proposals have been unveiled to create new facilities as part of the £200 million growth deal bid for the region that is being prepared by Moray Council.
Industry leaders believe the expansion will help stop the “brain drain” of talent leaving the region for careers elsewhere.
It is understood one campus will be in Cooper Park as part of the intended “cultural quarter” encompassing Grant Lodge and Elgin Town Hall and the other will be in an existing town centre building.
The team behind the project insist the development will help position Elgin as a “modern university town”.
David Patterson, Moray College UHI principal, said: “We’ve seen a doubling of the numbers of local people studying university programmes over the past few years.
“The people who visited our recent learning festival will have picked up a feel for the exciting and interesting things that happen in the college.
“However, we’ve reached a space now where we are very constrained by space and the extent to which our existing resources can be used innovatively to make some of these things happen.
“The new hubs would allow us to expend our offering and change the way we engage with the community.”
The final make-up of the campuses is dependent on whether the project is supported with funding from the Scottish and UK governments.
University bosses do however envisage one of the sites will be dedicated to creating an entrepreneurs’ “centre of excellence” to support people wanting to set up or expand their own businesses.
Moray already has one of the best records in Scotland for new firms surviving their first three years.
The other campus, which would be part of the cultural quarter, is intended to expand on the work done by the Moray School of Art with a focus on creative and digital industries. It is also hoped to create further opportunities to study and work in the performing arts nearby.
Rhona Gunn, Moray Council’s director for economic development, said: “The potential of the Moray College UHI hubs to retain young people here and increase chances for those much needed skills to enter the local workforce is extremely significant.
“Although the exact make-up is very dependent on the deal we are able to make and the funding we are able to secure, this project would bring multiple benefits to the region.”
Ewen Mackintosh, managing director of Gordon and MacPhail, said: “To stop the brain drain of our young people leaving we need to get the right education offering.
“We will have succeeded when graduates can walk straight into a job with a local employer. Even better if we can attract students from elsewhere to study that will ultimately lead to a rewarding career with a Moray business.”
There are currently 13 projects included in the Moray growth deal proposals – including a new gas pipeline to help industries expand and a business and technology centre to provide support for firms.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell described the bid as “compelling” following a visit to the region last month.