Lecturers who publicly expose fraud or bad practice should be protected, according to new guidance sent out to principals this week.
But staff concerned about malpractice or unethical conduct should follow internal complaints procedures before going public or face disciplinary action, according to a new paper from the Association of Colleges.
The 11-page guide, produced as the Nolan Committee on standards in public life recommended a new criminal offence of misuse of public funds, says managers should be given an opportunity to investigate and take action.
The AOC also published guidelines on publishing the minutes and papers of college governors' meetings.
A model openness code recommends that information should be made available as a matter of course. But it leaves wide scope for governors to veto publication of what they see as sensitive information.