Employers are to be urged to show more support for sub-degree programmes of study.
At a policy forum this month, the Council for Industry and Higher Education will call on business representatives on its employers' panel to put their weight behind efforts to promote the Higher National Diploma and the foundation degree.
A report published this week by the CIHE says research has proved that sub-degree study brings financial rewards.
One study found that HND holders increased their earnings potential by 45 per cent, compared with 37 per cent for those with only A levels. While honours-degree graduates increased their financial returns by 65 per cent, the gap between the value of degrees and sub-degrees narrowed when the number of years of study was taken into account.
CIHE chief executive Richard Brown told The THES that recruitment to full-time HND and foundation-degree courses was flagging because "the message has not yet got out to students and their parents that it is worth doing anything other than a degree".
The CIHE is also adding its voice to calls for lower tuition fees for HND and foundation-degree programmes. "Such a pricing signal might even encourage more students, often with employer support, to undertake studies in this area," Mr Brown said.
In a recent paper for the Higher Education Funding Council for England, David Robertson, professor of public policy at Liverpool John Moores University, argues: "The private rates of return for intermediate-level qualifications generally fall below those for most baccalaureate degrees over a lifetime. Expecting students to pay the same for less may not be the best way to secure long-term demand for intermediate credentials in the UK."