The European Investment Bank (EIB) is to finance half the £305m cost of the University of Ulster's new Belfast campus, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Discussions are also taking place between the EIB – the European Union's infrastructure investment bank – with Finance Minister Simon Hamilton, on other possible projects.
Although a spokesman for the University of Ulster would only say that "discussions" are taking place with the EIB, the EIB itself issued a statement confirming that it is investing €175m, or £150m, in to the Belfast project, which the EIB costs at £305m in total.
Previously, the university has estimated the cost of building the new Belfast campus at £250m.
The campus is being built in the area around York Street and Donegall Street, covering a 75,000 square metre footprint. The Department for Employment and Learning is contributing £16m to the cost of the project, which involves relocating academic courses and students from Jordanstown to the centre of Belfast.
A spokesman for the EIB said it has had "wide ranging" discussions with Northern Ireland's Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) on other possible projects, but that the only definite investment so far is the Belfast campus.
The DFP's spokeswoman confirmed that Simon Hamilton had met the EIB, but denied rumours that the focus of talks had been to finance an upgrade of the Belfast to Londonderry A6 road.
She said: "The minister is keen to encourage external investment in to Northern Ireland from bodies such as the European Investment Bank.
"He has already met with the bank to discuss specific major investments here, although not the A6 road scheme."
DFP and the Strategic Investment Board say that it is unattractive at present for the Executive to borrow from the EIB because of the UK Government's capital spending and borrowing rules.
The DFP's spokeswoman said: "A direct loan from the bank to the Executive would score as national borrowing and HM Treasury would reduce our Capital DEL (Departmental Expenditure Limit) budget accordingly.
"This means the Executive would in fact be worse off, as it would have to pay interest on the European Investment Bank loan."