Colleges will be designing courses for individual students from this autumn following the national launch of a new award.
The BTEC Award, which has already been piloted in 40 further education colleges, gives greater flexibility than before and aims to meet student and industry needs.
The customised qualification offered by the Business and Technology Education Council is aimed at adults who cannot take time out from work or afford to pay for a full qualification. Many involved in the scheme believe it offers a more workable alternative to most A-levels and general national vocational qualifications.
Students in the 40 colleges are being offered an award which can include bits of existing qualifications or be built from scratch using new course units devised by colleges or training centres.
Where suitable units do not already exist, BTEC may approve ones devised by colleges in response to market needs. Stockport College, one of the first centres to join the current pilot, offers three separate BTEC Awards made up entirely of new units.
The organisation expects few awards to be entirely new. "There are still little gaps which the national qualifications framework has not quite reached, " said Janet Ryland, training and development manager in BTEC's further education unit. "But our advice is for centres to use what is available."
The BTEC Award is aimed at part-time adult students who are unable to complete a full qualification but who want a recognised award. It may eventually lead to further study as candidates collect units as a passport to later qualifications.