The Further Education Funding Council is so concerned about college accountability it is considering putting its own appointees on governing bodies.
David Melville, FEFC chief executive, said this week that they were "minded to propose to government" that they should have the power to appoint one or two governors for a limited period. The governors, who would be distinguished former principals, chairs, or regional committee members, would have specific powers of approval. That would mean that no decision could be taken by the governing body without them.
The decision is a response to the concern about the lack of college accountability expressed by MPs on the education and employment select committee. Margaret Hodge, the chair of the committee, said there had been "stunning examples of mismanagement in colleges". Tessa Blackstone, the education minister, said she was concerned about the current system of FE college governance and wanted to see wider representation on governing bodies.
More recently, the council was originally rebuffed when the board of Halton College in Widnes refused to suspend the principal and the vice-principal during an investigation by auditors. They were subsequently stood down after a meeting between the college's board and FEFC officials.
Mr Melville said: "There may be circumstances where we feel that public funds are at risk and we want a sufficient lever to ensure they are properly used."
At the moment, he said, the only real sanction against a college was the power of the Secretary of State for Education and Employment to dissolve the governing body, a power so draconian it is rarely used. Officials at the council are now investigating whether the new proposal would require legislation, or could be introduced by regulation.