Stella Mbugaegbu, principal of Highbury college, in north London, believes that, beyond the few pockets of notable excellence, further education is well behind other parts of the public sector in addressing the bigger multicultural issues.
Addressing the TES seminar at the annual conference of the Association of Colleges in Birmingham, she said: "How are we going to look at these issues and challenges? I feel very strongly about this. Will there be equality in my lifetime?
"My husband works in the NHS and was recently involved in an operation where the only white person out of 11 people in the room was the one on the table. This is the world we are living in and it is not being seriously addressed.
"The challenge for leadership is to take action and have a proper understanding of what we are dealing with. There is fear around, fear of prejudice, fear of taking action.
"If we are to break the vicious circle, it is here among the leadership that the challenge must be met. Fear is the child of ignorance. What better place to learn than in the heart of the community?"
"There is a demand on us all to look through the economic arguments that Foster and the Learning and Skills Council's Agenda for Change are throwing at our doors.
"What is the multicultural agenda that our students should be following? If we don't provide our students with these skills and development, they will be worse off for it, and that will affect the whole of society."