Political pressure to raise entry requirements for teaching in schools has hindered the campaign for equal recognition for further education and schools' teaching qualifications.
The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) has said it cannot relax the requirement for qualified teachers in schools to have a degree - confirming a barrier for up to 70 per cent of staff to move from FE if they wanted.
But the Institute for Learning (IfL), the compulsory membership body for FE teachers, said the proposal of an assessment-only route for FE teachers with a degree was still a "landmark occasion" and a vital step towards mutual recognition of qualifications between the sectors.
It had hoped the experience of FE teachers could be seen as degree- equivalent, but now said it would work with universities responsible for teacher training to find a way to accredit the FE qualification, Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS), as a degree-level award.
One FE teaching qualification, the diploma in teaching in the lifelong learning sector, is already rated level 5, equivalent to an honours degree.
The decision, in the TDA's response to a consultation on how people can gain qualified teacher status (QTS) without lengthy study, comes just after the Conservatives outlined plans to restrict school teacher recruitment to people with a 2.2 degree or above.
It said: "Some respondents suggested that the degree requirement should be extended to include recognition of vocational qualifications and relevant experience . However, teaching is a graduate profession; current and proposed regulations both require a first degree or equivalent qualification granted by a UK institution or an equivalent degree or other qualification granted by a foreign institution."
Toni Fazaeli, IfL's chief executive, said she had hoped the TDA would recognise college staff's experience as equivalent to a degree, but it said this was outside its remit. She now has to convince the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, which has has voiced concerns about "dumbing down".
She said: "They're actually raising the entry requirements of teaching and it looks as though whatever party is in power, there's a very, very strong attachment to it being a degree-entry career. The door is opening to gain QTS for FE teachers with a degree and QTLS. There is further to go for FE teachers who do not hold a degree. So - two cheers for progress so far."
It is not known how many FE lecturers have degrees, but the IfL says the figure is at least 28 per cent of members. Among those with QTLS, it is at least 38 per cent.
The IfL sees gaining recognition for QTLS in schools as a key part of its mission to show it can benefit its members, who face stiff hikes in membership fees as government subsidy is phased out.
At present, FE teachers can only be paid as unqualified staff in schools unless they retrain for up to two years. But school teachers' qualifications are recognised by colleges.