In a tough keynote speech to the the Association of Colleges' annual conference, chief executive Dave Gibson said the sector had for too long seemed like a separate part of the structure of education - "a parallel universe not inhabited by high educational achievers". That image had been damaging, especially as colleges played a crucial role in preparing thousands of students for higher education.
There had been too much snobbery and some MPs had been unfamiliar with FE - thinking that only Oxbridge had colleges.
Mr Gibson welcomed the extra funds announced by minister Malcolm Wicks but warned: "Let me assure you that when it comes to the clamour for funding we are not taking our foot off the gas.
"Too often in the past, we all thought, in the words of an old song, that when it came to FE, the Government was only putting in a nickel - but wanted a dollar song."