Universities are unlikely to develop vocational qualifications unless they are forced to by the demands of students and employers, according to the author of a new report.
Dr Peter Wright, assistant director of the Quality Enhancement Group at the Higher Education Quality Council, said he thought only commercial pressure would lead to universities developing degree-level vocational courses or encourage applications from students with vocational backgrounds.
He believes many universities are unaware of the developing vocational field and has written Vocational Qualifications and Standards in Focus for the HEQC, to be published on Monday, to help institutions formulate policies.
Last year the first 700 students with advanced GNVQs - equivalent to A-level - started university courses, but the number is expected to rise dramatically in September, reaching 25,000 over three years.
Dr Wright said: "GNVQs have developed more rapidly than anyone expected and more rapidly than Government targets which were widely regarded as over-optimistic.
"The system can take 1,000 students but it might be different for 25,000 or 100,000. The real test is going to come when large numbers of students emerge in traditional heartlands of higher education, such as science and engineering. "
Dr Wright thinks further education colleges could emerge as leaders in the development of degree-level vocational qualifications with further blurring of the boundaries between the two sectors.
The report suggests universities and colleges might explore how their graduates could attain certain core skills through vocational routes. For example, history students might take a National Vocational Qualification in a language which they needed for research.