Ambitious plans for a new further education forum representing every college in Britain were being unveiled today.
The organisation, to be created in August from the merger of the Association for Colleges and the Colleges' Employers' Forum, will be called the Association of British Colleges (ABC).
The two parent associations say the new body will be a powerful force uniting the often disparate voices currently representing the sector to boost lobbying power in the battle for Treasury cash.
It emerged this week that other FE organisations intend to run in parallel with the new group.
The future relationship of the sixth-form colleges association, APVIC, with ABC is still being hammered out. Colleges belonging to the new association will elect one board member during a transitional period of up to two years.
A move by some APVIC members for a fast-track merger with the AFC was narrowly defeated at last year's annual conference, prompting concern among those hoping for swift change that sixth-form colleges would lose influence in moulding the new organisation.
APVIC chairman Howard Clarke, principal of Stockton Sixth Form College, called for flexibility from ABC to accommodate other bodies. He said: "Quite clearly the majority of our members feel it is essential that the particular interests of sixth-form colleges continue to be articulated."
Some APVIC members hope for a kind of secondary, cheaper-rate membership of ABC, in which pay and conditions concerns would still be dealt with by the Sixth Form Colleges Employers' Forum.
But Nick Brown, principal of Oldham Sixth Form College, said he expected most sixth-form colleges to back ABC as the most influential voice in the sector.
Fforwm, the Welsh AFC equivalent, also plans to run alongside the ABC. It believes it has a distinctive role in Welsh issues which ABC will not deal with. The new ABC board will include one member representing institutions in Wales and another representing Scotland.
Colleges belonging to both the AFC and CEF only have one vote for the new board.