Changes have been made to the "provider review" process, by which the Learning and Skills Council ensures it is getting value for money, following recommendations by the quango's task force on bureaucracy.
Colleges will get one review a year, instead of two, to see whether their progress matches targets they submitted to the LSC.
The same changes will apply to training firms which get LSC funding. The more detailed assessment process, which runs alongside the review, is only expected to be carried out in a minority of colleges.
The new light-touch regime will be introduced in September alongside three-year funding plans designed to make it easier for colleges to organise courses without the uncertainty caused by annual funding applications.
At present, colleges are graded by the LSC as excellent, strong, acceptable, some concerns but not expected to decline, some concerns and giving reason to believe decline is possible and serious concerns.
Under the new system, there will be fewer categories and an increased commitment from the LSC to treat colleges individually.
The five categories will be replaced by two - excellent or raising serious concern.
It is estimated that 10 per cent of colleges will fall into each of these groups.
Detailed assessment of colleges' performance will only take place where there are funding implications or the possibility of the LSC intervening in the management of the institution.
This will mean top-performing colleges which expect to improve still further will have to be assessed because they may expand or need to spend money on sharing what they are doing with other colleges.
Rob Wye, director of the chief executive's division of the LSC, said:
"Moving from two reviews a year to one will reduce bureau-cracy.
"All colleges will continue to be assessed against their plans but there will be a number, I would say most of them, who will not have the closer, more detailed assessment."