The further education sector is being used as a model of best practice in a major inquiry into the future of our public services.
Researchers at the Institute of Public Policy Research believe that the Further Education Funding Council is ahead of other public sector bodies when it comes to "striking a balance between central government control and the devolution of power to colleges".
Nick Pearce, head of education policy for the IPPR, said: "We are interested in the FEFC because it has the freedom to allow colleges to innovate. We are interested in what this may mean for other services in education and elsewhere in the public sector."
Mr Pearce said that while targets should be set by central government to raise standards, they should not deny local bodies the freedom to adapt delivery methods to suit local circumstances. This "light touch" regulatory approach may encourage beneficial managerial innovation and risk-taking in the public sector.
The FEFC plans accredit those colleges that have proved their managerial and educational worth through inspections. Accredited colleges will be subject to fewer inspections giving them greater freedom. The first colleges should be accredited next year.