A new "through-train" programme starting next year will allow polytechnic students to not just get a place in a local university, but also be assured of a job.
Students on this route will also graduate from university up to a year earlier than their peers.
For a start, Temasek Polytechnic (TP) has tied up with the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) to offer this new pathway in April next year for 40 students in the building services and mechatronics sectors.
This was announced by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung yesterday at a work-learn carnival at Nanyang Polytechnic.
The higher learning institutions have in recent years offered a host of work-study programmes at the diploma and degree levels, in a trend that is seeing more convergence between work and study.
But this new pathway, which will be expanded to more courses, is the first such programme in Singapore that gives full-time diploma students a guaranteed route to a degree.
Students in TP's mechatronics diploma will go on to SIT's Bachelor of Engineering in mechanical design and manufacturing engineering, while those in TP's integrated facility management or green building and sustainability course may move on to SUSS' Bachelor of Science in facilities management.
They will take three or more university modules in their third year of polytechnic, go on an internship with their sponsoring companies and graduate with a diploma.
In university, they will study and work concurrently for the company, and after graduation return as full-time employees. The entire programme will take about five years.
Mr Ong said: "Essentially, students entering this pathway will be embarking on a Work Study Degree Programme, but starting during their diploma programme.
"Students will have a seamless integrated pathway that allows for a longer and more effective workplace learning stint with the same employer."
"Companies will also benefit through a longer engagement with the trainees and can better plan for their deployment and career progression," he added.
In a speech addressing 1,500 polytechnic students and employers, he said that existing work-study programmes will be expanded.
The Nanyang Technological University will offer six new work-study degrees in areas such as engineering, data science and business analytics in the new academic year that begins next month. Currently, the local universities offer 16 work-study degree programmes.
The polytechnics will roll out another 15 new Earn and Learn programmes (ELP), while the Institute of Technical Education is adding more work-learn technical diploma programmes, which are also a form of ELP, to its current slate of 14. In total, there are currently 123 ELPs.
Mr Gary Lim, deputy director of TP's SkillsFuture Academy, said students on the new pathway will not have to repeat similar modules across polytechnic and university.
"Many polytechnic students today have the aspiration to obtain a degree. At the same time, we cannot neglect the fact that Singapore is facing a manpower shortage in some areas," he said.
Students will be selected yearly for the programme after interviews with the universities and employers, and need to maintain an academic grade point average to continue in the programme. More than five companies and 15 students have expressed interest so far.
TP second-year mechatronics student Cecilia Soh, 18, wants to apply for the programme as it will give her a head start to university and her career, and allow her to graduate faster.
Her coursemate Kenneth Lim, 18, is also keen to take the same route because of the job security it offers.
"It is also more difficult to get into university from polytechnic, so having that added security is good."