After two years taking evidence, the million-pound inquiry's report Learning Through Life called for an end to the long-standing bias where 86 per cent of adult education spending went to 18 to 25-year-olds.
Instead it proposed that an extra pound;3bn of the total pound;55bn spent on lifelong learning by the public and private sectors should be distributed among over 25s. The inquiry believes the extra funding could be found without cutting provision for younger people.
It is just one of dozens of recommendations in the 280-page report, commissioned by the adult education body Niace to provide a long-term view of adult education beyond the recent crisis of cuts and more than a million places lost.
The chair of the inquiry, Sir David Watson, said: "Our goal is to set an agenda for lifelong learning that will make sense for the next quarter- century."
While the report praised the Government's Learning Revolution and support for grassroots initiatives, it said colleges given the freedom to meet local needs in diverse ways should be at the centre of lifelong learning provision.
Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said colleges were likely to welcome the support for independence, and the needs of an ageing population needed to be confronted.
But he warned that a significant transfer of funding carried risks. "The youth unemployment figure is almost a million. Is this a time when you want to be reducing investment in that group?"