The universities of Brighton and Chichester will validate qualifications at the University Centre at Central Sussex College.
Launched in December, the institution will offer vocationally-focused courses designed to improve employment prospects and career progression in an area with below national average participation rates in higher education.
These will include both full and part-time courses such as Higher National Diplomas and professional qualifications. New courses to be offered from September 2013 include a BSc top-up degree in electronic engineering and HNDs in sustainable building and creative media production.
The development of a "university centre", which would allow local people who might not otherwise have considered continuing their studies to enter higher education, was a main objective of Central Sussex College when it was launched in August 2005.
Its launch followed a detailed research project commissioned by Crawley Borough Council and the then South East England Development Agency, which identified the participation shortfalls in the area.
Colin Monk, the University of Brighton's pro vice-chancellor for business and marketing, said the university was delighted to be involved in what he called a "significant milestone in the provision of higher education opportunities in central Sussex".
Another supporter of the centre's development, Henry Smith, MP for Crawley, said: "Historically, less than a fifth of Crawley young people have gone on to higher education despite the world leading and innovative companies we have here. Providing more convenient access to university and good quality employment will enhance local opportunities."