This article contains an analysis of policies aimed at increasing the participation of adults in higher education (HE) in seven countries (NL, DK, SE, UK, BE Flanders, DE and the state of California in the USA). In order to maintain their economic competitiveness, many countries have
developed policies to increase the participation of adults in HE. However, the effectiveness of these measures has not been studied to any significant degree as yet. Therefore, the focus of this article is to assess the effectiveness of these measures within their particular context. For this
purpose, the research team carried out an international comparative study based on desk research, case studies and interviews with both policy makers and academic researchers in the seven countries. The study shows that there are common ingredients for effective learning environments, such
as a high degree of flexibility of HE provision. In short term, in rationalising policies there are a number of issues that need to be addressed, e.g. the issue of what is the primary objective for increasing participation. In the long run, one needs to reconsider broader HE structures within
a lifelong learning perspective towards a fundamental revision of the current systems. This is both necessary in combating crises and in dealing with problems encountered by ageing societies.