A Glasgow conference on the economic benefits of lifelong learning heard that those aged 25 and over account for nearly one in three hours of education and training received by working-age individuals in the UK.
Gavan Conlon, a research officer at the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics who carried out the survey, told the conference in Glasgo Caledonian University: "This figure is substantially higher than the received wisdom." But the financial benefits are not always predictable.
Over-25s undertaking additional full-time qualifications at university or college suffer an"earnings penalty" of 17 per cent in the case of men and and 10 per cent for women.
Helen Connor, an associate fellow of the Institute for Employment Studies, said the risk of having a relatively low wage after completing a degree, or not completing it at all, can be a disincentive.