Teenagers could finish their schooling alongside undergraduates under proposals to build Britain's first campus-based academy for 16 to 19-year-olds at Brunel University.
The Government has agreed to fund a feasibility study into the idea, which would see teenagers share Brunel's sport and library facilities with undergraduates as they studied mathematics, science and technology-related subjects.
The study will consider whether the academy should provide "residential routes" and offer accommodation for some teenagers. It will also look into "the teenagers potential to participate in undergraduate programmes".
Steven Schwartz, Brunel's vice-chancellor, said he did not envisage halls of residence, rather a small supervised "house" for some academy students.
"If this goes ahead and it works - and we think it will - it will be the first academy of its kind," Professor Schwartz said.
"We hope that other universities will want to do it, too." If approved, the academy would open in 2007.
The announcement of Government-backing for a feasibility study comes just days after new Education Secretary Ruth Kelly spoke of the need to "stretch" pupils and give them early tastes of university life at the North of England Education Conference.
The academy, which could cater for up to 800 teenagers, would be built on Brunel's Uxbridge campus at a cost of about £17 million.
The project is being sponsored by the HSBC Education Trust, which has agreed to commit £1.2 million towards construction costs. Funding would also come from the London West Learning and Skills Council.