I've been asked more than a couple times for hints on how to play TLE with a university staying at level 10. So I'm copying the text here so I can just refer to it later :)
Sometimes they want to just stay "little". Other times they think they can get more powerful this way (not entirely untrue, but not anywhere near true, either) In general, I recommend people should play the way they want, how they enjoy the game. If that's slow and steady, that's fine. If that's expand-expand-expand, that's fine, too. If that's "attack low-level players", well, I do have allies :)
If your style is "stay low-level for a long time" (I'm at over 5 months at uni 10 so far), here are some tidbits. Most people would not recommend this style of play. I don't recommend it, either. It's not that it's inherently harder or easier, just incredibly different from how most play the game, and you can only get so far this way. It's also fairly time consuming - it's not easy to advance without advancing!
So, now, if I haven't scared you off this idea, what have I done to accomplish all this? The primary thing is LCOT farming. Three of the nine plans, G, H, and I, can only be seen if your overall university level is 10 or lower. (The distinction between "overall level" and "actual level" is pretty small, it is NOT that you get to add up university levels from various planets, but that if you raise your university to a level, then downgrade it, your overall level does not go down, it's the highest level any university has ever been in your empire.) This means that high-level players, who are going to be more interested in building LCOTs, can't actually run the missions for some of the pieces. To build a(nother) LCOT, they have to buy it from a lower-level player. This gives them significant value, and gives the low-level player value in the game as well.
There are a few things that help in LCOT farming.
1. Allies. With the "stash" in your embassy, you can get specific foods and ores from allies that can help you complete missions. If what you need isn't already there, just ask an ally via private chat, and they'll likely be happy to put it in there. Fast, free, easy. And your ally is likely to have so many resources that the amount you're asking for, which is significant to you, will be unnoticeable to them.
2. Storage. Get an IDR (Inter-Dimensional Rift) and level it up as much as possible. You can't even complete the LCOT-B mission (there's only one) without an IDR of 15+. Which means you can't do it with a uni of 10 without some sort of outside intervention.
3. Understanding how missions work. There are some basics here.
3a. You can only complete one mission one time, then you must wait 30 days until you can do it again. Doesn't matter how many zones you're in.
3b. There are 3 or 4 missions for each of the LCOT plans from D through I. That means you can only get 3 or 4 of each plan in a 30-day period. There is only one mission for each of A, B and C. A requires ships you can't build (but I bought a bunch from rammo), B requires plans you can't get (you need an arch ministry, or you can buy the plans) and energy you can't store, and C requires 100E. These are all killers for a low-level player. Don't worry about them. (I've done all of these at least once each, but they are NOT easy.)
3c. Plan ahead. For example, one of the missions for a low-level plan requires 30 probes to be sent out. So make sure you have more than 30 probes available at all times. And you need to have your observatory at level 10 to be able to send them all out at the same time.
To be able to plan ahead, you need to know what's in each mission. This information is publicly available, even if not necessarily easily obtained. I'll leave that as an excersise for the reader ;) However, a bit of experience can help. When you see an LCOT mission, cut&paste it into a document that you can keep, and you'll now know what it requires forever. Note that destinations change, but requirements, e.g., sending out 30 probes, usually don't.
4. Understanding market value.
I'm sure you get the concept that if you're impatient in selling, lower your price for a quick sale, if you've got all the time in the world, charge more.
What I normally sell for is:
A-C, I don't sell. But they're worth 100E, easily. Of course, C requires 100E to run the mission, so there's no profit there.
Generally, when I was selling these, I could sell them within a day or two if I put them on the SST at this price. I've seen them on SST for much more, but often they sit there a long time, I'm not sure if they actually sell or not. I've also sold them for much more, but that's a whole different story :)
If you can find a way to get an IDR 1+x plan, where x is 15 or more, that can really help. The general way for this to appear in the game is via a contest. Other 1+15 or better plans are also very handy, but if it's not a glyph building, watch out for how many resources it takes, your level 11 glyph producers (volcano, etc.) can only produce so much, and these will start to suck too much pretty quickly. But glyph buildings, like the IDR, don't consume any resources, so take 'em as high as you can get them.
Also, on the line of contests, watch for United Federation in chat. He often gives out E randomly from time to time, and even has contests in chat, too. Not a lot, but 5E here and there can help. One such contest netted me 30E in about 30 minutes, for example.
My goal with all this was to find enough E to pay for a lot of future development when I do eventually go beyond level 10. I think I'll be good for a while this way. In the meantime, however, I also used it to buy a bunch of Halls to perform the glyph building upgrades. Generally, that's a good trade :)