This paper sets out to explore the implications of current patterns of participation and attainment, particularly among 16-19 year olds, for the further expansion of higher education in the UK. It uses a range of recent statistics on participation and attainment to describe what is termed ‘system slowdown’. It then goes on to explore a basis for ‘system acceleration’ through the development of five possible routes into higher education both for 16-19 year olds and for adults. We conclude the paper by looking briefly at a number of inter-related strategies the Government could adopt to encourage ‘system acceleration’. We suggest that unless the Government is prepared to consider policy changes of this type, it is unlikely to reach the higher education participation target it has set itself and may also jeopardise the basis for a sustainable lifelong learning system for the 21st century
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