A London college has become the second in the capital and the third in the south of England to be rated outstanding by inspectors this year.
Tower Hamlets college, in east London, which serves some of the most deprived wards in the UK, received a grade one rating for leadership and management in a report published today.
Last November David Bell, the chief inspector at the Office for Standards in Education, highlighted a north-south divide between colleges and said the best-performing colleges were concentrated in the North.
But this year three of the four colleges rated outstanding have been in the South.
In February, City and Islington college, in north London, got the top grade from Ofsted and the Adult Learning Inspectorate, as did South Downs college in Waterlooville, Hampshire.
In this academic year, Burnley college in Lancashire is the only outstanding college in the North.
Inspectors described Tower Hamlets as one of the country's most deprived areas. Inspectors said 79 per cent of the college's students were of ethnic minority origin, with 46 per cent from the Bangladeshi community.
The report added: "Leaders and managers have created a vibrant and successful college that plays a major role in regenerating London's East End and improving the lives of local people.
"The standard of teaching and the students' overall achievements are above the national average for general FE colleges."
Principal Judith Hinman said one reason for the college's success was its willingness to welcome educational researchers.
She said: "We work with (London university's) institute of education, the centre for the development of literacy and numeracy, the Home Office, and King's College, London.
"One thing that makes the college so strong is that we always agree to have researchers working with us. That has driven up the quality of teaching so much."
In 2003-04, 10 of the 11 colleges rated inadequate by Ofsted and ALI under the joint inspection regime were in the South, three of them in London.