Thousands of adults miss out on a university place because those who control admissions do not recognise the value of their qualifications, a study has revealed.
Repeated efforts by governments to raise the status of vocational education have failed to make a significant dent in the elitist higher education system, the study suggests.
Lack of knowledge about alternative routes into HE was prevalent among teachers, university admissions tutors, professional bodies, employers and the Connexions advice service for 13 to 19-year-olds, the study found during interviews for the report.
Maggie Greenwood of the Learning and Skills Development Agency, which commissioned the study, said: "We are still stuck in a groove of thinking that the practical, vocational courses are inferior to more academic studies."
One work-based project cited in the report for moving people successfully into HE was BMW's apprenticeship scheme, run jointly with the university and City college in Coventry. But such schemes are the exception rather than the rule, the report suggests.
Of 600,000 adults who started level 3 studies last year, only 42,000 (7 per cent) were doing A-levels. More than 500,000 were on work-related courses and apprenticeships, but only 1 per cent of apprentices made it to higher education, the report shows.
It criticises the Government's data collection systems, which make it hard to evaluate the ways adults progress best into HE.
Alan Tuckett, director of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, said it reflected a failure of government to develop a lifelong learning strategy.
"Young people can fill only one in three jobs in the next decade - this is official, not some fuzzy estimate," he said. "Reforms proposed in the white paper and plans for a simpler framework for vocational qualifications could not deliver the necessary reforms fast enough. We need more investment in adult learning now - at all levels."
Tony Benn 3 Alan Tuckett 4 'Vocational Ladders or Crazy Paving?' is available from LSDA: email: firstname.lastname@example.org