Purpose – This paper aims to focus on the changing nature of quality assurance systems within the sixth form college sector. Design/methodology/approach – Ten sixth form colleges were surveyed across England and staff from varying levels within college hierarchies questioned about how quality assurance systems were implemented. Research involved interviews and questionnaires to staff, as well as documentary research. Findings – The main finding was that there is no single model of quality management system within the sixth form colleges sector and that the clearest differences in practice are between the colleges in the north and south of England which may suggest different organisational cultures in play. Research limitations/implications – This paper was limited by the relatively small sample size – ten from 94 sixth form colleges. However, it does provide a foundation for further research and a basis upon which to debate whether the sixth form college sector should aim for a standardised model of quality assurance. Originality/value – Insufficient research is undertaken into the work of sixth form colleges compared to the school and general further education sectors. This paper provides an insight into an under-researched area.