College chiefs have condemned a covert plan by the Learning and Skills Council to acquire "draconian" powers that they say would threaten institutional autonomy.
The proposals, which would allow the LSC to strip further education and sixth-form colleges of the independence they have enjoyed since they were incorporated eight years ago, have not been presented for consultation.
Instead, news of the plans was leaked to the Association of Colleges via discussions held by one of 47 local councils.
A document reveals that the LSC wants to have the power to suspend college principals, clerks, and governors; transfer responsibility for a further education corporation to a higher education institution or a private company; place a number of colleges under one governing body; transfer the assets of a college to another organisation; and to call special meetings of governing bodies.
The LSC hopes to be able to act on these powers without first seeking permission from the secretary of state.
AoC leaders are outraged by the extent of the powers sought by the LSC and its disregard for the need for public consultation.
Chief executive David Gibson said the AoC would be writing to Estelle Morris, education secretary, to ask her to honour a commitment to reduce bureaucracy in the LSC, a demand made in her department's remit letter to the LSC.
"What colleges want from the LSC is a fair and transparent funding and regulatory regime, which is still nowhere near being constructed," he said.
John Brennan, the AoC's director of further education development, said: "Existing legislation already gives the LSC and the secretary of state powers to intervene and shape the sector."
The LSC's chief executive, John Harwood, declined to comment.