The unions hope that success could pave the way for the return of national bargaining on pay and conditions, but the agreement is confined to specific areas - employment practice, the development of projects at national and college level and joint campaigning for improved FE funding.
A joint statement said both parties accepted that the local responsibility and autonomy of individual colleges had to be respected.
Tom Kelly, ASC chief executive, acknowledged the key role of staff and said he was "very pleased" with the agreement. Grahame Smith, deputy general secretary of the STUC, said he was "delighted".
The new agreement builds on a local initiative between unions and colleges in Glasgow and the ASC and STUC pledge that it "will put staff issues at the heart of college planning and help put in place policies policies to ensure colleges can recruit, retain and reward staff".
There will be regular liaison meetings, with reports and recommendations issued jointly.