International audience Life long learning incorporates various educational and training experiences, from the initial ones to the next ones when adults are going back to school for formal qualification or short courses, for professional training or personal life, in full-time or part-time conditions. Considering the average age of students and in a comparative way, French universities don’t really fulfill these expectations and needs. But, their contribution is more understandable if considering the historical conditions in which the problem of « adult education » has been built in French society and public sphere. Since then, the continuing training mission is a heterodox activity in universities, structured by the references of the labour and employment policy and driven by a social democrat idea of the role of the State but integrated in a higher education sector for which autonomy of the education system and centrality of the State intervention are dominant institutional features. The analytic challenge of this paper is to make a policy history of the continuing training in French universities, which take into account its inherited structures without falling to appreciate shifts and changes in institutional and social realities.