Pressure for a unified post-16 education funding system has emerged from a wide-ranging consultation on the future nature of higher education delivered at further education colleges.
Fears of a new binary line disadvantaging the colleges feature in many responses to the Higher Education Funding Council document Funding the Relationship.
The Association for Colleges, lecturers' union Natfhe and the Business and Technician Education Council all call for more equal treatment for colleges, which currently cannot receive capital funding from HEFCE. They also all want greater collaboration between higher and further education funding councils.
But the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals and the Association of University and College Lecturers are adamant there should be no further encouragement for colleges to offer higher level programmes.
The CVCP says: "There are clear dangers, and few obvious advantages, in encouraging further education colleges to develop stand-alone provision on a much larger scale than at present. In present circumstances any real increase in HEFCE funding in the further education sector could only be paid for by a further acceleration in the decline in the unit of funding.
"The CVCP believes the role of higher education in further education colleges should be to satisfy specific needs which cannot be met by higher education institutions, or by them alone."
In contrast the AfC says: "It is imperative that the council acknowledges the value and contribution of higher education per se and not simply of institutions as presently constituted. While universities and colleges of higher education will inevitably continue to be the majority providers, the HEFCE should be even-handed among providers on condition that the quality of education on offer matches the same high standard."
BTEC says the existing situation is confused because its HNDs are funded by HEFCE and its HNCs by the Further Education Funding Council.
"We must guard against creating a hierarchy of higher education in which that delivered in the further education sector is somehow seen as second or even third rate," it says.
Lecturers' union Natfhe advocates a single system of post-16 education and the funding councils moving closer together through a even-handed approach to higher education at all institutions.