This article considers recent policies of Higher Education in the UK, which are aimed at widening participation and meeting the needs of employers. The focus is on the growing population of part-time students, and the implications of policies for this group. The article takes a critical perspective on government policies, using data from a major study of mature part-time students, conducted in two specialist institutions in the UK, a London University college and a distance learning university. Findings from this study throw doubt on the feasibility of determining a priori what kind of study pathway is most conducive for the individual in terms of employment gains and opportunities for upward social mobility. In conclusion, doubts are raised as to whether policies such as those of the present UK government are likely to achieve its aims. Such policies are not unique to the UK, and lessons from this country are relevant to most of the developed world
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