"The purpose is to enable access to higher education at home that represents our diverse land," Nunavut Commissioner Nellie Kusugak said Tuesday in a speech opening the new session of the territorial legislature.
"It remains evident there is a direct correlation among relationships between employment, higher earnings and higher education."
The idea for a university in Canada's Arctic has been around for years, but it has gained new energy after a recent high-level report written by northern educators, government and land-claim organizations.
That report recommended a university be located in Iqaluit and suggested the school would need to be independent of government and Inuit organizations. While it would be open to all, it would mostly serve Inuit students from across the North.
Classes in traditional Inuit knowledge and language would be mandatory. Elders could be given the same status — and salary —as full professors.
The report proposed an initial course list of Inuit studies, fine arts, linguistics, political science and indigenous governance, education, health, natural science and law.
Quebec-based mining company Agnico Eagle, which operates a gold mine in Nunavut, recently offered the territory $5 million to start a university.
Kusugak added that the Nunavut government would also initiate a law school by 2017, offered by Nunavut Arctic College with help from the territory's Justice Department. In 2005, Nunavut graduated 11 Inuit lawyers through a program offered through the University of Victoria.
There are some opportunities for post-secondary education in the territory. Nunavut Arctic College brokers degrees in education and nursing through southern institutions. The University of the Arctic offers distance education through more than 100 institutions around the northern world.
But Canada remains the only Arctic nation in the world that doesn't have a university located in its North.
— By Bob Weber in Edmonton. Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960