The project involves industry, a private training provider, Bishop Auckland College and the University of Bradford.
SW Durham Training, the only advanced engineering trainer to be given Centre of Vocational Excellence status, has designed the three-year engineering technology course for people in work. It says this is the first such collaboration to increase participation in higher education, with FE acting as a springboard for students previously beyond the reach of universities.
Andrew Day, Bradford University's dean of engineering, said: "This is a prime example of the further education sector working closely with industry to widen participation and contribute to more sustainable employment."
The off-the-job training will take place at SW Durham's base in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.
Bishop Auckland College will provide the lecturers. The degree will be accredited by the university. Those who complete the course will be able to take a BSc honours degree at university.
Angus Crowther, SW Durham's general manager, said: "The beauty of the course is that it is flexible and not prescriptive. This means both students and employers can look at the key themes and core skills which best suit their own purposes."
A Newton Aycliffe-based company, Filtronic, which makes components for mobile telephones, is involved in the management and design of the programme.