The chief architect of the plan for a secondary school diploma in England says the government has missed a chance to end the academic/vocational split.
The government says work-related study is important
Sir Mike Tomlinson said he feared vocational options would still be regarded as "second best", for those who "can't do anything better".
The government is not adopting his proposals for a diploma that would combine all existing qualifications.
It says it will have one for vocational studies - to boost their status.
"For the first time we are going to take on and tackle the intellectual snobbery which has relegated vocational education to a second class, second best education," said Education Secretary Ruth Kelly, as she prepared to publish a White Paper responding to the Tomlinson report.
The words have echoes of what one of her predecessors, David Blunkett, said in July 2000 when he launched specifically vocational GCSEs and A-levels.
"Traditional routes have failed to motivate and engage many bright and gifted youngsters. We need to think imaginatively now about using their talent and creativity in meeting the craft skills needs of the future," he said.
"We also need to match the status and commitment to vocational education and lifelong learning that exists in other developed countries."
But Sir Mike, former chief inspector of England's schools, thinks the government is doing the precise opposite of what Ms Kelly has said.
He said part of its remit to his working group had been to look at having unified qualifications.
This is what their diploma had been designed to do - drawing in all existing qualifications - and it had achieved a "considerable consensus", even among employers and universities, he said.
So it was a "disappointment" that the government was not going to adopt the plan, and would have a diploma but only for vocational studies.
This "may only emphasize the difference between the vocational and the academic rather than bringing them together", he said in a BBC News interview.
"Not having them under a common framework, you do risk the fact that one is seen as better than the other," he said.
"And the sad fact is that we need many more young people to go into the vocational route and to regard them as high quality and leading to high-quality jobs - and the risk is that we will fail to do that."
He added: "My greatest fear is that vocational will continue to be seen as second best and available and taken by those who 'can't do anything better', as the phrase goes."