Many employers rate HNDs more highly than full degrees, new research has revealed - but careers advisers still find it hard to sell them to students.
The research was commissioned by the Department for Education and Employment and HND provider Edexcel. The HND's practical, hands-on experience was highly valued by companies.
It comes as ministers step up the drive to bring HNDs and similar sub-degree qualifications into the mainstream. FE has been identified as an area of expansion for sub-degree courses.
Baroness Blackstone, further and higher education minister, told a conference organised by the DFEE and Edexcel, that 15,000 of next year's 35,000 new places in HE would be at sub-degree level.
Universities and careers officers needed to do a better job selling sub-degrees to prospective students - and HE providers needed to offer quicker and easier routes to a full degree for students with such qualifications.
Researchers at Public Attitude Surveys found all but a small proportion of employers either already employed staff with HNDs or would consider taking them on.
Those who had recruited found them "flexible, adaptable and enthusiastic",researcher Mark Peters said.
"Compared to degree graduates, HND graduates were considered more practical and more experienced," he said.
Three-quarters said employees with HNDs had the same career prospects as graduates and half said they would pay them the same.
Ministers see HNDs and similar sub-degree courses as ideal for expanding the skills base and recruiting students from non-traditional routes who would find a full degree a "bridge too far".