Women, however, benefit from the "feminine image" of education centres and are willing to explore the wide-ranging "exploratory" programmes offered by colleges.
"Too many men think that learning is just for women," according to Veronica McGivney's report, Excluded Men: Men who are missing from education and training, published by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.
She says that men's attitudes to education are strongly bound up with traditional male roles. In areas of high male unemployment men consider investment in learning "as one not worth making".
They are sceptical about taking part in education, not just because of the effect on welfare benefits, but distrust of the value of learning and strongly held views on what constitutes appropriate male behaviour.
The report says: "Men's attitudes to education are strongly bound up with traditional male roles and notions of masculinity according to which male identity and status are conferred by work.
"Learning is perceived by some male groups as a feminine activity. This is reinforced by the increasing readiness of women to grasp educational opportunities, as a result of which some sectors have become strongly 'feminised'."
The report says there is a need to change a culture which leads some men over the age of 25 to feel a return to education will lead to loss of face and expose them to ridicule.
"Education on its own cannot change the wider culture. It would help if the mass media, particularly TV, the film industry, and the tabloid press, highlighted examples of men who do not conform to male stereotypes and provided role models of men engaging in different forms of learning."
Alan Tuckett, page 34