Training of top-flight college heads and teachers is to be designed along the lines of the Cabinet Office fast-track scheme for civil servants.
The architect of the plan is Terry Melia, the newly-appointed chair of the Further Education Development Agency. "It should go hand-in-hand with the Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett's headteacher initiative, " he told The TES.
"The sector should be running something like the top management project of the Cabinet Office. This is not necessarily for those who are already college principals but for those who are likely to assume senior management."
Dr Melia takes up his appointment at the end of the month, with the retirement of current FEDA chairman Ken Young. In his first interview, with The TES, he called this week for a united move by the sector to raise standards.
He is to approach the Association of Colleges, Association for College Management and the Association of Principals of Colleges for a joint initiative to develop a top management "college" for principals.
"If we are serious about high quality management then we need to go about it in a united way," he said.
The FE sector had a key part to play in post-school education, post-Kennedy and post-Dearing and it needed to prepare the ground for future managers to play that bigger role, he added.
Dr Melia brings a range of experience including those of college head and chief inspector for higher education when it was part of Her Majesty's Inspectorate and chief inspector for FE after incorporation. In his FE role, he drafted a range of measures for standards and quality control that were introduced into college inspections.
He starts with the FEDA as it is well into its second year of a five-year development programme. This includes the scheme known as Quality Information Learning Technologies (QUILT), which was designed to push the limits of technology and develop innovative staff education, training and development.
His plans for a top management programme are likely to draw heavily on the QUILT experience, with much of the work carried out through open and distance learning programmes.
"When you look at the enormous amount of work to be done in the sector, you realise the effort that must be made.
"We are not only having to consider the new role which colleges will inevitably be expected to play after Sir Ron Dearing's inquiry into higher education. There is also the new Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. It's work will have a big impact on FE. And we must not forget the Tomlinson Report on inclusive learning for those with learning difficulties and disabilities. "