Tens of thousands of people hoping to gain vocational qualifications would be barred from doing so if proposals are adopted to insist all training is assessed in the workplace, according to the colleges' representative body.
The Association of Colleges this week issued a strong warning that the cost of the step would drastically cut down the availability of NVQ programmes, excluding some of the neediest potential trainees such as the recently unemployed or people between jobs.
The move would also drastically hit colleges, many of which offer some NVQs using simulated work environments - a practice which would be outlawed if the change was made.
The AOC was responding to a consultation document from the National Council for Vocational Qualifications and its Scottish equivalent on changes to the structure of qualifications and occupational standards.
The consultation follows the Beaumont Report on the top 100 NVQs, published earlier this year, which found the flagship job training qualifications were costly, often poor in quality and did not match individual employers' needs.
A still more critical report published this week suggests Government claims over numbers of NVQ achievements are greatly exaggerated.
Among the suggested improvements put forward by NCVQ are revised specifications for the qualifications. The model specifications set out in the consultation paper both say candidates must produce "evidence of performance from genuine work environments".
The AOC says the proposal ignores the current dual function of NVQs which both affirm the competence of experienced workers and act as a focus for training for those who are not yet competent.
* Roger McClure steps down as finance director of the Further Education Funding Council in December when he moves to the London Institute under former FEFC chief executive Sir William Stubbs.
He will stay in post to see through the first full review of FE funding, the autumn budget and financial guidance to colleges for 1997-98. FEFC officials said his departure would be a great loss to the sector. He was chief architect of all key funding models for the post-16 sectors over the past 10 years.