In a paper highlighting the one in eight students that studies higher education in FE, Geoff Hall, principal of New College Nottingham, said traditional differentiation did not fit the way students saw themselves and their studies.
Mr Hall said: "Not all the students featured here match the traditional profile of an FE student - that is, someone from a disadvantaged background or an underachiever from other sectors of education.
"Historically, FE colleges engaged the non-traditional learner. Increasingly, HE in FE offers individuals, particularly those in work, a recognised route of first choice to higher level skills development."
Mr Hall said students found the descriptors "FE" and "HE" confusing since the people served by further education colleges were often complementary to the groups served by higher education institutions.
In his foreword to One in eight: the voice of higher education students in FE colleges, higher education minister David Lammy said colleges had helped to deliver HE to a range of students beyond the traditional school- leaver.
"Colleges have provided that important stepping stone to help people develop confidence to succeed at higher levels - this has been particularly important for older learners," he said.
The paper is published alongside the 157 Group's annual review for 200809.