Further education and the post-16 sector will be expected to seek closer partnerships with higher education institutions over the next five years, Bryan Sanderson, chairman of the Learning and Skills Council, has said.
The blurring of sectoral boundaries should be a feature of the local strategic plans that have been submitted to the LSC by 47 local learning and skills councils, Mr Sanderson said.
Further and higher education partnerships may become so strong that they will create a "sub-division" in the higher education sector, in which further education colleges would play a key role in delivering degrees, he added.
The LSC, which this week celebrated its first anniversary, will wish to see the strategic plans being used to forge strong regional alliances between colleges, universities, private learning providers and employers.
Mr Sanderson said the post-16 sector had experienced a "step change" over the past few months as the LSC moved on from its "difficult" start-up period to bringing forward national strategies and developing local plans.
The next phase would mean further education negotiating a "rapidly changing world" in which it would need to reach out to as many partners as possible, he added.
He said: "I am looking forward to more interaction between further and higher education, because to me the split does not always make a great deal of sense. I would expect cooperation to grow perhaps to the extent that higher education will be subdivided.
"People should be able to see post-16 education and training as a ladder they can climb, and be able to decide which institutions it is best for them to do that in. Where it is practical, I would like to see more sharing of courses and students between colleges and universities."
Mr Sanderson said that he expected that much of the collaborative activity would focus on the 16 new vocational centres of excellence that have been established in further education colleges around the country.
But it would also be up to the local LSCs to drive new developments forward and to take most of the "tough decisions" about planning provision and any reorganisation that might lie ahead, he added.