Susan Scullard was manager and director of the Further Education Euro Unit at the Southern Regional Council for Education and Training when she had her original claim for equal pay turned down by an industrial tribunal in 1993.
The council is one of 12 regional advisory councils for FE in England and Wales. Ms Scullard was paid less than equivalent staff in the other councils, all of them male.
But the Employment Appeal Tribunal last week overturned the 1993 decision. It ruled that a clause in the 1970 Equal Pay Act, which allows comparison in discrimination cases to be made only with employees in the same or associated companies, was overridden by European legislation.
A new tribunal will now decide whether Ms Scullard and the other managers were employed "in the same establishment or service".
If it finds in her favour it could open the way for claims from employees in education, the health service and the voluntary sector, says Michael Scott, solicitor for NATFHE. It would enable lecturers from different colleges to make equal pay claims. He added: "The Employment Appeal Tribunal decision could have considerable ramifications."
Ms Scullard said she was very pleased by the outcome. " What this means is that someone working in a college in Newcastle can make comparison with someone working in a college in Oxford in terms and conditions, hours and holidays. "