A unified further and higher education sector with a new and completely modularised qualifications framework has been proposed by the Liberal Democrats.
All current qualifications, from A levels and National Vocational Qualifications through to taught masters degrees, would be swept away and replaced with a graded structure indicating the number of modules gained by students.
Students would be able to build up credits on completion of modules in different disciplines, working their way up a ladder of levels or "way-stage" qualifications. Each module would be a recognised award, and students would be encouraged to mix and match academic and vocational study.
The idea is floated in a draft of the Liberal Democrats' new higher education policy document, which is being put together by Don Foster, the party's education spokesman, and his education team.
Mr Foster said he saw the proposals as the logical extension of existing Liberal Democrat policy to merge qualifications bodies and join the Department for Education and the Employment Department to oversee a new, "seamless" qualifications framework.
Such an approach would build on work already in hand on course modularisation, and on credit accumulation arrangements operating in some areas of the country based on a system devised by the former Further Education Unit.
It would enable further education colleges to offer more higher level courses, and could be linked to funding - a possibility already being tested by the Welsh funding councils.
"We are not just talking about modularising existing courses, we are saying you could make the modules qualifications in their own right. It would mean any qualification could be a route to a higher one," Mr Foster said.
Further and higher education funding could also be unified, with contributions made by employers through a training levy. Students would be entitled to maintenance support, but this would have to be repayed, possibly through the tax system.
Mr Foster said such a system would be better equiped to deliver the kind of flexible and coherent provision that many educationists believe is now needed.