Education secretary Michael Russell has appointed shadow chairs for 12 of the 13 new college regions. Their role will be to lead the transition process in their region, Mr Russell told parliament.
The appointees include current chairs of local colleges, a college principal and leading businessmen. The chair for the Fife region has yet to be decided.
Henry McLeish, former first minister and current chair of City of Glasgow College, is to lead the board for Glasgow, Scotland's biggest region; Ian McKay, chairman of the Institute of Directors in Scotland and a former assistant secretary of the EIS union will chair Edinburgh's regional board.
Professor Russel Griggs, who concluded the government-commissioned review of college governance earlier this year, will chair the Ayrshire regional board, while Anniesland College principal Linda McTavish is to take on the role of chair of Lanarkshire's regional board for the shadow year until legislation is passed.
A government spokeswoman said regional chairs would not be paid for their work and it was unlikely the commitment would be full-time; the time required would depend on progress in each region.
She said Mrs McTavish's role as principal would be "unaffected" by her appointment, while it was her understanding that Mr McLeish would "consider the implications for his current position" as chair of City of Glasgow College.
"We have asked Henry McLeish and Linda McTavish to consider how best to carry out their duties to avoid any conflict of interest," she said. Decision- making and accountability would remain with existing boards until new ones were created, she added.
Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: "I remain very concerned about the reform process . especially the intention of the Scottish government to influence the appointments of chairs to university courts and the new regional college boards. These moves directly threaten the autonomy of our further and higher education institutions."
Hugh Henry, Labour education spokesman, said that while he believed all regional chairs to be "of a high calibre and dedicated to education", they should have been chosen through a public appointment process, not by the education secretary: "The decisions that will be made over the next 12 months will have an impact on colleges for the next 10 to 12 years."
Scotland's Colleges chief executive John Henderson said shadow board chairs would have a pivotal role in the next steps in reform.
In his statement to parliament, Mr Russell announced the publication of detailed responses to the recommendations made by Professor Griggs in his governance review.
He confirmed his plans to create regional boards to increase accountability. They will conclude the new regional outcome agreements with the Scottish Funding Council, receive funding for the region and be accountable for delivery.
The education secretary also outlined his plans for taking forward recommendations made by Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski in his review of university governance.
Michael Russell said an advisory forum would be set up by the Scottish Funding Council to "help consider government and sector interests on the strategic decisions".
The Committee of the Scottish Chairs of Higher Education Institutions had been asked to lead a group to develop a Scottish code of good higher education governance.
THE APPOINTED: 12 of the 13 shadow chairs for the college regions
Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire: Ken Milroy
Current chair of Aberdeen College; chief executive of social enterprise Aberdeen Foyer.
Ayrshire: Russel Griggs
Chair of Dumfries and Galloway College; carried out the government's review into college governance;
chair of the Scottish government's Regulatory Review Group.
Borders: John R Wright
Current chair of Borders College;
past vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland; visiting professor at the Glasgow University School of Business.
Dumfries and Galloway: Barbara Kelly
Honorary patron of the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival; convener of the Crichton Foundation; former chair of the Scottish Consumer Council.
Edinburgh: Ian McKay
Scottish chairman of the Institute of Directors; former director of Scottish Affairs at the Royal Mail Group; former assistant secretary at the EIS union; former lecturer at Stevenson College, Edinburgh.
Forth Valley: Hugh Hall
Current chair of Forth Valley College; chief operating officer of the University of Strathclyde; former chief financial officer of Scottish Enterprise.
Glasgow: Henry McLeish
Current chair of City of Glasgow College; former first minister and minister for enterprise and lifelong learning; previously a Labour MP and MSP.
Highlands and Islands: Michael Foxley
Current chair of West Highland College; GP by profession; former leader of Highland Council; board member of Bord na Gaidhlig.
Lanarkshire: Linda McTavish
Principal of Anniesland College; former adviser to the Scottish Executive Minister for Communities (Closing the Opportunity Gap);
former Convener of Scotland's Colleges.
Tayside: Kish Srinivasan
Current chair of Dundee College; former dean of the management faculty at the former Dundee Institute of Technology; former chief examiner for the SQA and assistant chief inspector for further education for HMIE.
West: Michael Yuille
Current chair of Clydebank College; non-executive director of the Student Loans Company; former director of finance at the universities of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Liverpool.
West Lothian: Peter McKiernan
Current chair of West Lothian College; professor of management at the University of Strathclyde; executive board member of Scotland's Colleges.