The high-technology dispersed campus will bring together 11 colleges of higher education and other specialist institutions through a digital communications network offering video and computer links.
The award for the university was the biggest part of a total Scottish awards package of nearly pounds 47m and by far the greatest of 10 announced yesterday. Most of them involve the creation or renovation of community centres and halls in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The total cost of the university development is estimated at pounds 86m but the commission's award is expected to encourage a total investment of at least pounds 100m over the next five years, which will provide the university with other new communications facilities, libraries and learning resources, with major capital developments at each site.
The university's first degree, a BSc in rural development, validated by Aberdeen University, was launched earlier this month. It is being delivered initially by Lews Castle College in Stornoway.
The project has drawn backing from local authorities, businesses and community groups across the region.
Lord Dalkeith, Millennium Commissioner for Scotland, made the announcement at the Inverness headquarters of the development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which made the funding bid.
The agency's chairman, Fraser Morrison, said: "This project will not only bring academic gains to the Highlands, but will provide a powerful and dynamic motor for economic and community development for the next century."
Many of the university's students are expected to be part-timers. The university hopes to attract the equivalent of some 5,000 full-time students.
"This project will deliver a very different kind of university for Britain and Europe," Robin Lingard, UHI project director, said. "Its combination of community commitment, federal collegiate structure and strong emphasis on technology breaks new ground."Reuse content