A number of food manufacturers have worked with the college, which is an associate faculty of the University of the West of England. The 10 degree-level study modules have also been accredited by the Royal Agricultural College. Topics include: Food safety management systems; Food and drink quality processes; Microbiology; New product development; Marketing; Environmental awareness; Environmental technologies; Food science; Nutrition and labelling; and Work-based food processing.
Modules run over 17 weeks and are studied by a combination of distance learning and two- or three-day residential study. Students may study anywhere if they have good internet access.
Dr Stephen Waite, vice principal for higher education at Hartpury College, said: "This ground-breaking course gives those wishing to combine higher-level study with work the best of both worlds."
Krissy Kelland, technical manager for Anglo Beef Processors subsidiary Romford Wholesale Meats, was involved with the pilot. "I can work at my own pace, which is ideal as my workload varies massively from week to week," said Kelland. "I can also apply what I am studying in my role as technical manager."
Doug Tolson, a new product development technologist at Meadow Cheese, based in Ledbury in Herefordshire, added: "It's flexible and enables other courses to contribute to a final qualification."
A spokesman for seafood firm Blue Earth Foods, which has selected the course for one of its staff said: "We need to attract bright, young people and they deserve the chance to achieve everything a traditional graduate would."
Luke Rake, Hartpury College vice principal for further education, added: "This programme removes any ceiling that apprentices and other time-served personnel might hit otherwise. It creates a level playing field for those who choose further education or vocational study over full-time degrees."