Working adults are being offered the chance to gain degrees without leaving their jobs - via an innovative partnership of universities and colleges called the Greater Manchester Strategic Alliance (GMSA).
Manchester Metropolitan and other higher education providers in Greater Manchester have teamed up to pilot a new concept of higher education called GMSA Advance, giving learners unprecedented choice of what, where, when and how to study.
Modules from different universities carry credits that can be built over time into a single, large qualification such as a degree.
The system gives people unique access to university study while they work, on a pay as you learn basis.
Chunks of learning
Small chunks of university learning will improve higher level skills in the workplace, making staff more valuable to both current and new employers during, and beyond, the credit crunch.
GMSA Director Cath Walsh said: "The government is calling for 40 percent of adults to be skilled to degree level by 2020. This initiative is a major step towards fulfilling that agenda.
"National research shows most people believe gaining new skills will boost their career. GMSA Advance aims to be the complete package for employed adults and businesses."
"Learners can apply new knowledge and skills to their job roles. They will bring a fresh perspective to challenges in the workplace and should find new motivation as they gain qualifications through work."
Statistics released by Learndirect show more than half the country's workforce (57 percent) are worried about their job prospects as a result of the current economic downturn. More than 50 percent of people are looking to training to improve their career prospects and job security.
A full launch of GMSA Advance will take place later in 2009, after successful completion of the pilot.