Inspectors have issued a sharp warning about management standards at the quango charged with training the college managers of the future, according to confidential briefings seen by The TES.
A briefing for senior staff at the Further Education Development Agency highlighted "underdeveloped planning processes, inadequate management information systems and a slow start-up in a number of areas", writes Ben Russell.
Inspectors from the Further Education Funding Council also said there needed to be "a wider range of expertise" and "more explicit prioritisation and clarity about role and funding".
They also pointed to "inadequate marketing information" and "some underdeveloped areas" in FEDA's work.
The findings will prove acutely embarrassing to FEDA management, currently promoting their management training initiative for college staff. Senior staff used this week's Association of Colleges' conference to promote their training under the banner: "Developing FE leaders of the future".
FEDA is also deeply involved in the launch of a huge research project on lecturing standards - a central part of work to develop a qualification for all lecturers.
It is also the agency central to the setting up of a staff development forum which could oversee plans for granting of qualified lecturer status.
Last week The TES revealed that FEDA managers may close the former FE staff college near Bristol as part of a restructuring plan.
Insiders say morale has slumped amid fears of job losses. One source said staff feared they could be the victims of management shortcomings.
Inspectors, however, do praise staff for their work in the three years since FEDA was formed from the merger of the former FE Unit and the Bristol Staff College.
They point to "substantial progress in bringing the two predecessor bodies together" and "increasingly effective communications". There are positive comments about FEDA's regional structure and a growing sense of corporate identity.
FEDA's wide range of services and its effective collaboration with other agencies are also praised.
The full FEFC inspection report is due by the end of the month.