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Former Dunedin physiotherapist Dr Stanley Paris, who founded a university in Florida, the University of St Augustine, is keen to open a school, but said it seemed it would not qualify for Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) support at this stage.
In email correspondence, Dr Paris said the university had been working with a developer in Frankton and was "comfortable that we will have the space when needed".
He said he had also been working with a developer regarding student accommodation to ensure future students could get the best priced accommodation in the area.
A director was also "on hold" and the university would not look towards hiring other staff at this stage.
Asked if it could proceed with only privately funded students, Dr Paris said it was not likely at this time.
If the school eventually went ahead, it was hoped it would attract students internationally including those from the United States, Australia and Asia and that its situation in Queenstown would be appealing.
An exchange programme would be offered between the school and the four programmes run by St Augustine at its three United States campuses.
Dr Paris said he had met TEC chief executive Dr Roy Sharp who had advised the commission was not able to fund all the existing students who had applied for university education in New Zealand.
Dr Sharp confirmed yesterday he had one discussion with Dr Paris last August.
Dr Paris had requested the meeting in order to understand the overall environment for tertiary education in New Zealand and the role of the TEC.
There had been no further contact with Dr Paris since then, Dr Sharp said, in an email response to questions.
Dr Paris said other considerations affecting the decision to put the plans on hold in the meantime were the overall economy and the change in the way physiotherapists were being paid by ACC which could lead to a temporary drop in demand for physiotherapy services.
Dr Paris said a school would offer either masters or doctorate level study, but the exact form would be decided after discussion with the two other physiotherapy schools in New Zealand.
The university, which specialises in occupational therapy and physiotherapy, was adopting a "wait and see" approach with the TEC and was not "pushing the request" at this stage, he said.
Dr Paris, who has an international reputation in orthopaedic physiotherapy, has been in the news in recent years with his attempts to become the oldest person to swim the English Channel.
He was 70 when he first attempted that record in 2008, but had to withdraw with cramps and nausea when he was halfway across.
Last year he made another solo attempt, but had to give up after five hours.
He has since been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, and wanted to have another attempt at the channel in three years when he will be 75.