A new generation of school leaders will be prepared for headship in a "realistic, practical and down-to-earth" way after major reforms to their mandatory training, The TES has learnt.
Those studying for the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) will spend more time in schools, and with outstanding heads, than in the lecture theatre.
A wider range of providers, including universities and even schools, will be able to run the NPQH - a qualification that all heads have to hold.
Education secretary Michael Gove ordered changes last year because, he said, the "qualification has been overly focused on how to implement government policy rather than on the key skills required for headship".
The qualification is currently run by the National College. Chief executive Steve Munby said the college would in future license the new providers to run the course
"Those studying for the new NPQH will spend more time in schools where they can experience and work alongside really great heads," he told The TES. "This is a powerful learning mechanism.
"There will be a range of different providers for the course, and universities will be one of them. We are also exploring the possibility of a wider group of people running the NPQH, including teaching schools."
Mr Munby also said there will be "better links" between the NPQH and higher education courses, for example the MBA and masters degrees.
"The new NPQH will be realistic, down to earth and practical, and we have been asked not to make it too expensive," Mr Munby said. "You will be able to choose the kind of NPQH you want to do; there will be more choice of modules."
The last graduates of the "old" NPQH will finish the course by autumn 2012.
The course is free for state school heads, and costs pound;3,800 for independent school heads.
James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, said higher education institutions were "keen" to run the qualification.
"We think university involvement will give the NPQH added status and kudos," he said.
"It will also make it more attractive to people, and hopefully will encourage them to do a masters-level course afterwards."
Specific proposals about changes to the course will be presented to Mr Gove in September.