Scottish education minister Brian Wilson has signalled the prospect of greater support for Scottish further education.
Mr Wilson, addressing the annual conference of the Association of Scottish Colleges, said the sector's own efforts and achievements were positioning further education at the crossroads of both Scottish education and many of the government's other key policies and initiatives.
He announced a Pounds 1 million boost for widening access, plus another Pounds 700,000 to improve collaboration between institutions. Various parts of Scotland were "ripe for rationalisation", he said, but stressed that this need not necessarily mean full mergers.
Each college is being given Pounds 15,000 for time to "marshall their thoughts" and begin to implement collaborative ventures.
While the cash comes from the existing strategic initiatives fund, Mr Wilson said he had made no secret of his view that Scottish further education was under-funded, and welcomed the ASC's contribution towards the comprehensive spending review.
"I can't predict its outcome but I very much hope it will be possible to do something for further education colleges once the review has concluded," he said. "I see Scotland's further education colleges moving very confidently into a new era."
Mr Wilson said the themes of access and collaboration would underpin a strategic framework, which the Scottish Office would issue for consultation later this summer.
"We are therefore moving away from a funding methodology that focused on unrestricted growth and promoted excessive competition between colleges, and considerable duplication of further education provision," he said.
Bob Kay, chair of the ASC, said: "Access and collaboration are the bread and butter of college activity. Further education colleges place access and widening participation at the heart of what they deliver, often in partnership with other agencies as well as other colleges."