Pay parity between college lecturers and school teachers in Wales is expected to be achieved within two years, Welsh MPs at Westminster have been told.
But they were also told it will take between five and 14 years before Wales's 25 further education colleges receive the same funding per student as schools.
The Welsh association of colleges, fforwm, which represents colleges on pay and conditions as well as curriculum issues, told a meeting at the House of Commons that there is currently a "considerable gap" in pay between school teachers and lecturers.
However John Graystone, fforwm's chief executive, said that the Welsh education minister Jane Davidson wants the gap closed and the same six-point pay spine to apply to both colleges and schools by 2006.
He said there are currently 25 pay systems governing the salaries of lecturers and fforwm's national negotiating committee is holding discussions on pay levels with unions. "We are making progress but it is a very difficult thing to do," he added.
Dr Graystone said that nearly twice as many 16 to 18-year-olds are taught in colleges than in schools in Wales and colleges are increasingly teaching 14 to 16-year-olds in partnership with schools.
He said discussions have begun about equal funding. "We feel it is unfair that a college gets less funding than a school for the same course. We are looking for a common funding methodology, but it could take between five and 14 years to bring everybody to the same level.
"We share the agenda of rising standards and widening participation, but we feel that colleges are not given the same status as schools and universities in delivering the post-16 agenda.
"Our greatest strength, our diversity, is often our greatest weakness. We are fighting for resources and we often feel we come third."
MPs were concerned that equal funding will mean some school sixth forms will be forced to close as colleges take on more students.
But Huw Evans, fforwm's chair, said: "I can see situations where a school sixth form is not viable on its own, but there may be an opportunity to sustain the provision in a partnership with a college within the locality."