Private training companies could be invited to join the Association of Colleges in the organisation's most radical shake-up for 10 years.
The AoC could be reshaped along the lines of the American Community Colleges Association, which claims to have increased its clout with politicians after widening its membership in 1990.
Schools and local authorities could also be invited to become members.
The idea is being considered as part of a review of the AoC that is being carried out by Helen Gilchrist, a former principal of Bury College, and George Bright, a former principal of Wiltshire College. It follows a year in which members expressed doubts over some of the association's activities and its poor relations with ministers.
Last year saw the closure of AoC Workforce Development, a commercial arm, leaving debts of pound;1 million.
Ms Gilchrist said: "It is 10 years since the AoC was created and we want to take a hard look at what is needed to make it fit for purpose over the next 10 years."
Radical changes in spending and new demands from the Government, including more adult basic skills training, 14-19 curriculum reforms and new partnerships with educators, employers and local authorities, means the AoC has to rethink the way it works, she said.
Mr Bright said: "The AoC has clear strengths. It has kept a broad church together, successfully influenced ministers on policy decisions on issues such as the funding gap, and gathered strong evidence of a successful FE system. But we need to ask whether the structures in place are still sufficient."
A full report will be published by July and the board will draw up a list of proposed reforms for members to decide on at the annual conference in November.
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