Plans for a major inspection of all primary science courses have been dropped, and instead the Office for Standards in Educaton will carry out a survey based on a sample of colleges.
The review, drawn up with the Teacher Training Agency and the Department for Education and Employment, also envisages a lighter focus on English and maths and specialist subjects.
But there will be no changes to the secondary inspection programme until after 2002. Comparable evidence is needed on all courses so that student places and funding can be allocated fairly, says a letter to heads of teacher-training institutions from OFSTED and the agency.
Universities and colleges welcomed the move, seeing it as victory for their long-running campaign to reduce the inspection burden.
They have complained of being "inspected to death" by the two-year cycle. Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector, caused controversy when he ordered a more detailed re-insection of primary courses after the first sweep, completed in 1996, proved generally favourable.
The letter, from Mr Woodhead and Ralph Tabberer, chief executive of the agency, says inspections of primary providers in 2000-02 will be limited to whichever of English or maths was not inspected in the previous two years.
No more specialist subjects will be inspected in the current round, which ends in 2002, unless a college has not yet had a specialist subject inspected, or if a previous inspection uncovered problems.
And the proposed inspection programme for primary science has been dropped, to be replaced by a survey based on a sample of providers.
The letter says those colleges "sampled" for the science survey will not be individually graded or reported on, and the findings will not influence decisions on allocation of trainee numbers.
Secondary providers will have to wait until 2002 for their inspection programme to be revised. Proposals for change are still being discussed by OFSTED, the TTA and the DFEE.