Tamworth's UNE campus could cost the university and the taxpayer an eye-popping $60 million.
Vice-Chancellor Brigid Heywood revealed the figure at a public meeting on Monday night, in a speech where she flagged a funding dispute between state and Commonwealth governments is reaching an end.
The extra cash reflects raised ambitions for the campus project, she said, identifying a new robotics centre, the potential for a Tamworth smart farm and research facilities as new elements for the university.
"We're going to build a full service university with research, applied research and engagement models tucked in. In order to attract new industry here, we ought to have some of those specialised facilities," she said.
"They were not envisaged when the original plan was put up but they're very much part of our thinking now.
"We think over the next five years the spend will hit that $50 to $60 million mark really easy, but not because the building's more expansive, but because we're going to add additional industry-relevant facilities so we can drive the innovation equation here as much as we can deliver the education facilities that we provide."
The university project has long been delayed by a dispute between federal and state governments.
The NSW government has dedicated $26.6 million to the project on condition the Commonwealth make its own $10 million contribution, which the federal government had refused to do.
Professor Heywood said the governments and the university had agreed in principle to a funding arrangement that would get the project moving.
"Everybody is on the same page. Everybody has agreed the way forward and we are translating that agreement into a document that needs to have pigment on parchment and a stamp to tidy it up," she said.
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson told the same public meeting the state government was "locked, loaded and ready to go".
UNE has yet to start master-planning the project, but Professor Heywood flagged they were unlikely to use the mooted velodrome site for education facilities.
Instead the land, which had been gifted by Tamworth Regional Council, could be used for "student accommodation, and some retail spaces and maybe a study centre", she said.
"If we want to look at our future ambitions we do need to have a little bit of growth opportunity around any particular site. Velodrome doesn't necessary have all the growth opportunity that we might be looking for," she said.
UNE plans to have the master plan completed by about November 2021, with construction to start in early 2022 and be completed in 2023.
Tamworth university reference group chair Mitch Hanlon said the project will be an urban regeneration project and that the university would be a template for other regional communities.
"By Christmas we'll all see what it looks like. It may be two storeys high, it may be 10 storeys high," he said.
"It may be one building, it might be 10 buildings. It has to be fit for purpose."
About 50 people turned up to the public meeting on the UNE project on Monday evening at the West Tamworth League Club.
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