Newcastle College, in Tyne and Wear, has become only the fourth general FE college to get a grade one rating for leadership and management from inspectors.
Inspectors judged teaching and learning to be outstanding in six curriculum areas, more than in any other FE college. They also awarded grade one ratings for its social inclusion policies and for its guidance and support to students.
Its results have only been bettered by three tertiary colleges and 13 sixth-form colleges. This is a far cry from its last inspection in 1999.
Then, leadership and management were judged satisfactory and significant work on improving student retention levels, financial controls and college policies was deemed to be necessary.
As a reult of debts totalling around pound;1.5 million it was placed in recovery and Jackie Fisher, former principal at Tameside College in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, was appointed as principal to turn the situation around.
She said: "We are delighted to be rated outstanding in six curriculum areas. That represents 65 per cent of our provision."
Inspectors said in their report: "The strong and energetic leadership has helped to transform the college. All of the weaknesses identified at the last inspection have been successfully addressed and many former weaknesses have become significant strengths."
David Bell, chief inspector of the Office for Standards in Education, said:
"The strong and energetic leadership has underpinned the college's rapid development and enabled it to achieve a remarkably consistent level of success."
Newcastle has more than 40,000 students, nearly half of whom are from wards ranked in the top 10 per cent of the most deprived in England. It is the largest college in the country in terms of its pound;47m a year turnover.
The three other general FE colleges of the 275 in the UK to be awarded a grade one for leadership are Barnfield in Luton, Knowsley in Liverpool, and Warwickshire in Leamington Spa.
Inspectors praise Oldham colleges 3