The quality of the student experience should be the main focus of inspectors' judgements in the new post-16 sector, the inspection agency Ofsted has proposed.
Inspectors should consult students on the quality of their education and training and the level of support and guidance they receive, as well as reviewing teaching standards and student retention, progression and achievement, under a new common post-16 inspection regime from April, a consultation paper says.
While institutional management will be a feature of inspections by Ofsted and the new Adult Learning Inspectorate, the emphasis will be on judging the extent to which learners' needs are met and comparing their progress and achievement to national targets and benchmarks.
The paper marks the beginning of formal consultation on the proposed inspection framework.
College chiefs welcomed the proposals, but called on Ofsted to reconsider plans to exclude college representatives from meetings where inspection judgements are made.
Institutions will be allowed to nominate someone to act as a link with inspection teams, ensuring inspectors have the information they need and keeping institutions abreast of findings.
David Gibson, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: "We would have thought there was no danger in having that nominee sit in on meetings as an observer."
The Ofsted paper calls for responses by January 5 next year.