For the first time, an external centre, which is a registered charity, has been given accredited status, a scheme which helps colleges highlight good practice. There are 41 accredited colleges, nearly 10 per cent of the sector.
They get a one-off payment of pound;50,000 which they are expected to use to spread good practice and collaborate with other colleges. Under a "lighter-touch inspection" regime they get visited only once every six years, instead of the normal four.
The first external institution to gain the status is Cathedral Centre, an education and training community in Bradford, Yorkshire.
It opened in 1981 with three members of staff helping 35 people on youth opportunities programmes. Now it has 350 students, and 60 members of staff. It has been receiving money from the funding council since1994-95, and also receives European financial support.
Mary Haskins, assistant director for quality, said: "We have always workedwith excluded groups. Most of them are unemployed and we teach them basic workplace skills."
FEFC chief executive David Melville said: "The large number of colleges applying indicates how much they value the recognition of high quality that accredited status gives, and the impact accreditation has had on raising quality in the sector.
"Cathedral Centre's work with unemployed adults in Bradford sets exceptionally high standards for others to follow. Both retention and achievement rates are impressive."
Jim Donaldson, the FEFC's chief inspector, said that Cathedral Centre's success showed that high quality could be available to all learners.
THE 11 ACCREDITED COLLEGES
Abingdon College, Oxfordshire; Alton College, Hants; Blackburn College,Lancs; Cathedral Centre, Bradford; Havant College, Hampshire; Long Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge; North Warwickshire and Hinckley College, Warks; Peter Symonds' College, Winchester; St Helens College, Merseyside; Stamford College, Lincolnshire; Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I College, Leicestershire.