Apprentices will be able to study for degrees and post-graduate qualifications while working, as an alternative to going to university, under proposals being considered by the Government.
The apprentice programme has already been extended to cover foundation degrees, but plans are being drawn up for companies to develop apprenticeships at bachelor and masters degree level.
The move is designed to open up careers in areas such as construction, advanced engineering and financial services to people from a wider range of backgrounds.
Ministers hope it will help fill advanced skills gaps in the UK economy by allowing people to acquire them through vocational as well as academic routes.
The National Apprenticeship Service will consult with businesses and other stakeholders and draw up specifications for study, which could be available by the next academic year.
A 10 Downing Street source said: "Economic flexibility and social progress depends on there being a choice of excellent academic courses and strong vocational education, which is why we are creating proper pathways for both.
"These new apprenticeships will help more young people to receive on-the-job training at top companies ensuring that the vocational route is a highway to success, not a cul-de-sac.
"For every £1 we spend on apprenticeships it's estimated that the economy gains £18. That's why businesses have told us we need to go further in encouraging apprenticeships to the highest level. We're listening to those concerns and acting upon them."
Data published in January showed 457,200 apprenticeship starts in the 2010/11 academic year - an increase of 63.5% over 2009/10.
Investment of over £1.4 billion in the 2011/12 financial year has been increased to £1.5 billion in 2012/13.