Management is on a collision course with lecturers' unions and students over proposals that would force all FE lecturers to be teacher trained and registered with a professional body.
The Association of Scottish Colleges has told the Scottish Executive that some forms of professional body could seriously impede the work of colleges, for instance by limiting the range of people with current industrial experience who were eligible to teach in colleges.
The association has also expressed serious concerns that the Executive's consultation on the need for a professional FE body contained no consideration of how any of the developments would be funded or supported.
It estimates that the cost of a full teaching qualification for further education would be around pound;10,000 per member of staff after fees, replacement costs, travel and materials are taken into consideration. The ASC also questions whether there would be enough training places within Scotland.
However, both the Further Education Lecturers' Association and the National Union of Students Scotland have given strong backing for all full-time lecturers to have a teaching qualification and to have mandatory registration with a professional body.
The FELA, part of the Educational Institute of Scotland, argues that that body should be the General Teaching Council for Scotland. Its submission states: "It is not often that educators in Scotland cite English policy as examples of best practice but we believe the Westminster Government has shown the way for the future."
It is now compulsory for full-time college lecturers in England to acquire a teaching qualification within two years of their appointment, and within four years if they are part-time.
The EIS argues: "It is the very lack of such a qualification and a recognised professional body that allows some to continue to assume that teaching in FE is less valuable than teaching in schools or higher education institutions."
It adds: "Irrespective of what sector a lecturer or teacher works in, the term teacher or lecturer retains a currency that implies quality of educational provision. The blurring of boundaries between the school and FE sector, and the FE and HE sectors, makes it imperative that the public understanding is not undermined."
However, Janet Lowe, principal of Lauder College and a member of the ASC board, rejected the idea that Scottish FE lecturers should be required to have a teaching qualification because that was happening in England.
"What happens in Scotland is what should be best for Scotland and Scotland has very often been in the lead in these kinds of areas. We want to remain that way rather than follow what is happening in England," Miss Lowe said.
She added that the key issue was whether a teaching qualification should be mandatory.
"I appreciate that a mandatory qualification in schools is a separate issue," she said. "But if I look at the staff I want to employ to provide the best possible experience for this college, then I need the flexibility to hire people with a range of qualifications - not necessarily a mandatory teaching qualification."
At Lauder, jewellery-making is taught part-time by jewellers, and some business courses are taught part-time by accountants and project managers.
"Their experience is vital for the quality of what we offer but, if we insisted that these people had a mandatory teaching qualification, we would probably lose them," Miss Lowe said.
The ASC view is that staff should be encouraged to take professional development awards (PDAs), which are developed by colleges working with the Scottish Qualifications Authority as effectively a subset of the full TQFE (teaching qualification for FE).
It also argues that with the existence of bodies such as the Scottish Further Education Unit, Lifelong Learning UK (which is succeeding the Further Education National Training Organisation) and the new Higher Education Academy (the professional body for all staff teaching higher education), any new or extended body would overlap with these agencies.
NUS Scotland makes a distinction between full-time and part-time lecturers, expressing reservations about requiring part-time lecturers to possess a teaching qualification. It suggests that this might deter part-time and specialist lecturers.
But it does support a compulsory teaching qualification for full-time lecturers on the grounds it would provide confidence that standards were being maintained.