All seven colleges inspected during the 2004-05 academic year passed the HMIE "confidence" test - and well over 80 per cent of college staff expressed confidence in the inspections.
Under a revised review procedure introduced last year, the inspectorate concentrates on three quality elements in its scrutiny of subject areas and college-wide activities - learning and teaching, student progress and leadership. The seven colleges were performing well in each of these areas, HMIE concluded - although sometimes with qualification.
In its analysis of the inspections, published last week, the inspectorate cautions against drawing firm conclusions because of the small numbers involved. But the general finding was that colleges were "mature institutions with a positive approach to quality assurance and improvement".
It states: "Colleges have shown themselves to be agile and flexible in delivering strategies which offer improved services to their learners and support them as they engage with lifelong learning."
Of the seven colleges, the funding council decided that only Central College of Commerce in Glasgow required a follow-up visit from HMIE because of important weaknesses in guidance support, which was rated only "fair".
"In all other cases, varying degrees of continuing engagement by the college with the college HMI were considered sufficient to satisfy public accountability requirements," the report states.
Overall, inspectors found students were highly motivated, teaching was effective and learning goals were being achieved. But some weaknesses were uncovered such as insufficient use of ICT to support teaching and too narrow a range of teaching approaches.
Leadership and management in six of the seven colleges - Angus, Banff and Buchan, Dundee, James Watt, John Wheatley and Stevenson College Edinburgh - were rated very good. Central College of Commerce was judged to be good.
All the colleges were found to be innovative in a range of different areas.
In college-wide elements, HMIE handed out praise to Central College for its close working with small and medium-size businesses; Dundee College's strategic forum, chaired by the principal and involving 30 senior and middle managers; school-college partnerships at Angus and Stevenson colleges; guidance and quality improvement at Angus College; and John Wheatley College's learning and teaching "champions".
Excellent work was also commended in all the 16 subjects the inspectors investigated. Very good grades for teaching were awarded to 45 per cent of these, 53 per cent were judged good, 2 per cent were fair and none was unsatisfactory.