The University for Industry should be gearing up to offer degree-level courses, Ann Limb, its new chief executive, has said.
The UfI's learndirect online service should be working with universities as well as colleges to offer work-based learning that could lead to new foundation degree programmes, she said.
In this way, part of the UfI's work would make it "a kind of e-new university" with a mission to work very closely with industry, she added.
Ms Limb, who takes over in July, said she felt higher education institutions were "just as crucial" as partners in learndirect as further education colleges.
"The flexibility that is provided through the online learning that UfI has should prove attractive to universities, particularly where it fits in with the work they are doing with industry," she said.
"We are all about providing new progression routes for people, and that includes up to degree level. I hope we will be able to play a big part in the development of vocational routes up to foundation-degree programmes."
A lot of work was still to be done on quality assurance and credit accumulation and transfer for learndirect courses, she added.
Ms Limb has been principal of Cambridge Regional College for the past four and a half years.