At the end of January the knives seemed to be out for college franchise deals.
The crisis over funding for college expansion saw serious questions being raised about colleges' training in the workplace, courses being run miles away from the colleges which organise them, and the possibility that public money is simply replacing private finance for training.
But at FEDA's conference this week, deals with the private sector appeared to be all the rage.
Faced with a cap on public finance, colleges should go out and raise finance elsewhere, principals were told.
Education Secretary Gillian Shephard was promoting full-cost courses as one way of colleges managing growth within a capped budget.
And Roger Dawe, director general for further and higher education and youth training, said: "It will be necessary to look for funding from other sources, notably from employers.
"There will still be substantial public support, that will focus particularly on young people, 16 to 19, and unemployed people.
"For employed people the challenge will be to find funding from employers or other sources."
But underneath the support for college's new partnerships was the strong message that funding deals with the private sector will have to change.
Professor David Melville, chief executive of the Further Education Funding Council, gave the strongest hints yet that workplace training franchises will be cut, with employers and employees expected to make up the shortfall.
He said: "It's understood that the Government considered that it might be necessary to reduce the contribution of the public purse to such training. "
Professor Melville added: "Franchising has proved to be the key to taking FE outside the walls of our colleges. For the first time a very significant proportion of FE has gone beyond those walls."