Of the 400 chief superintendents in the police force, under fire for its institutional racism, 10 are black. Of the 480 FE colleges in the UK, only seven have black principals.
Robin Landman, executive director of the Network for Black Managers, said:
"FE has many lessons to learn from the police. It has a long way to go before it matches the police service in recruiting and developing black people.
"The police force has been exposed to more public scrutiny and responded appropriately when a compliance order was slapped on it by the Commission for Racial Equality.
"It would require the direct intervention of the CRE to have the same impact on our sector. We have still got a mountain to climb."
He said there are only 58 black and ethnic-minority staff in colleges who can reasonably expect to apply for principalships. "That is very poor," he added.
"The corporations of colleges in London and the West Midlands need to be challenged to see what they are doing in this respect. It is important for the Learning and Skills Council to take a more forthright role."
Stella Mbubaegbu, the UK's first black woman principal, said colleges outside the large conurbations are often more open about their appointment procedures.
"London colleges have had the longest history of race equality and equal opportunity policies, but often the politics of appointments are more complex in the cities.
"I am proud of Hampshire. It has appointed myself and June Jarrett as the only two black women principals in the country. I'm proud it has an openness in appointing the best people."
The remaining five black and minority ethnic principals are Wally Brown at Liverpool community college, Daniel Khan at Grimsby, Maxine Room at Swansea, Sujinder Sangha at Stockton Riverside college and Satnam Gill at the Working Men's college in London.