Tony Blair met 100 guests from colleges at Monday's event, one of a series held throughout the year for various parts of the public sector.
Sue Dutton, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: "We are very pleased that these individuals have been recognised for their excellent contribution to the successes of their colleges."
Guests included lecturers who teach all age groups, including the growing number of school-age students attending colleges, as well as managers and students.
Mr Blair told them: "You are at the front line in education and you are doing a magnificent job.
"What you are doing, day in and day out, with millions of people in the country, is showing them what they can do with their lives."