Industrialists in the South-west are lobbying ministers against planned cuts in further education over the next three years.
The Association for Colleges says a meeting, organised by chairs of governors from leading colleges, reflects growing concern among captains of industry with Government post-16 spending plans.
"These are leading industrialists who know about efficiency and cost-effectiveness in the private market-place. Ministers should listen to them if they want to stay in office," a spokesman said.
Governors have written to James Paice, the education and employment minister, warning that the proposed "efficiencies" on top of five years of cost-cutting would reduce student choice and colleges' ability to respond to the market and lead to a dismantling of the post-16 education and training system.
Leslie Richardson, chairman of governors at South Devon College, said: "To ask us now for further efficiency gains of 17 per cent over the next three years is simply not realistic.
"It is the pace of change that is creating the difficulty."