IT departments are being urged to employ university IT students for four days a week as they complete their degrees, under a radical scheme to be unveiled by London's City University.
City plans to offer up to 30 IT students a year the opportunity to combine paid work in an IT department with one day a week in lectures as part of an intensive four-year degree.
The move is designed to create a stream of graduates with the academic and communication skills and the practical experience demanded by employers.
It follows concerns that many of today's students are unable to devote as much time to their studies as previous generations, because they need to work part time to cover their living costs.
"We reckon that most of our undergraduates work 15 hours a week and some of them more," said Ginny Williams, professional liaison officer at City. "They need to work but often they don't work in IT."
City will invite students to join the programme, known as the Professional Pathway, after their first year in university. They will attend the same lectures, carry out the same coursework and take the same exams as students on City's other IT courses.
"This is not a cut-down course," said Williams. "We will only be offering it to the best students because it is a challenging mode of study."
City will extend the academic term from 30 weeks to 45 weeks a year, to allow students to complete the professional pathway in four years - only a year longer than students on conventional IT degrees.
Software suppliers, banks and a number of smaller employers have agreed to employ the students on the scheme - which begins in September - on salaries ranging from £14,000 to £18,000 a year.
Employers say that a similar day release scheme run by Salford University has helped them to reduce their recruitment costs dramatically.
Students, who will be expected to complete nine hours a week of study on top of their day in university, will have the support of an Internet site containing study materials.