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Best-paid college principals in England revealed

Of the 12 college CEOs paid more than £200k in 2017-18, six are no longer in post

paid paid college leaders of 2017-18 revealed by SFCA

Twelve college CEOs were paid more than £200,000 in 2017-18, the latest Education and Skills Funding Agency figures reveal.

Of these, six are no longer in post; four of these colleges have since been subjected to intervention by the FE commissioner.

The number of principals earning £200,000 or more dropped from a high of 17 in 2016-17, compared to 12 in 2015-16 and eight in 2014-15. 

The best-paid college leader was Judith Doyle (pictured), CEO of Gateshead College. Her published pay for last year was £344,000, according to the new college accounts. This marks a significant increase from 2016-17 when she was paid £240,000 – making her the sixth best-paid principal at the time.

The figure in the accounts suggests Ms Doyle received a 43 per cent pay rise. However, a spokesman for the college said the figure for 2017-18 was made up of a £225,000 salary, a £35,000 bonus and £84,000 which was "an accrual relating to a remuneration scheme which has not yet been paid".

"Decisions in relation to principal/CEO pay are determined by the corporation’s remuneration committee," the spokesperson added. 

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College rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted

The college was rated "outstanding" by Ofsted in 2015. Ms Doyle was named FE leader of the year in the Tes FE Awards 2016, and made a CBE in the New Year’s Honours List 2017.

Gateshead College’s total income for 2017-18 was £50 million, making it the 25th-biggest college in the country.

The second best-paid college leader in 2017-18 was the late Garry Phillips, the former CEO of Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College, who received £279,000, up from the £260,000 he was paid the year before.

Mr Phillips was appointed CEO of the London college in 2014. It was rated "inadequate" by Ofsted in 2015, before being subjected to an intervention by the FE commissioner. It subsequently went on to be rated "good" by Ofsted in 2017. Mr Phillips left the college last summer to take up the chief executive job at City College Plymouth.

He resigned in November, following criticism in a report by the FE commissioner on Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College, and a resulting no-confidence vote by UCU members at City College Plymouth. Mr Phillips died shortly before Christmas, with former colleagues paying tribute to his achievements.

Notice of concern

Andrew Cleaves, CEO of Birmingham Metropolitan College, was the third best-paid principal, receiving £266,000 in 2017-18 – the same was he was paid the previous year. He resigned with immediate effect in September.

The college has been subject to a notice of concern over its finances from the Education and Skills Funding Agency since July 2015. In October it received its third successive requires improvement grade from Ofsted. It has consulted on plans to demerge its Stourbridge College division. It is currently undergoing FE commissioner intervention

A college spokesperson said: "The principal in post at the time of the published records is no longer with the college.  The salary was correct for the period of employment."

The fourth best-paid principal – Dame Asha Khemka, who was paid £257,000 – has also been the subject of some controversy. She resigned as principal and chief executive of West Nottinghamshire College in October, weeks after it was revealed the college had been issued with a financial notice to improve after requesting exceptional financial support.  An FE commissioner report published the following month claimed there had been “a serious corporate failure”. A spokesperson for West Nottinghamshire College said the salary relates to former principal and chief executive Dame Asha Khemka who left in October.

Fifth in the table was Leeds City College principal Colin Booth, who received £233,000 – unchanged from the previous year – while in sixth place was former NCG chief executive Joe Docherty, who left the Newcastle-based college group in October.

FE commissioner intervention

In eighth place was North Hertfordshire College, which paid its leader £221,000. However, this figure is understood to cover the tenure of former chief executive Matt Hamnett, who resigned in November 2017, and his successor Kit Davies, appointed the following month. The college subsequently entered FE commissioner intervention following concerns over its finances. A spokesperson for North Hertfordshire College said: “This is historical data, which is misleading as it includes the pay of two senior post holders. The 2017-18 accounts cover the period when our current principal was acting in an interim role as well as the pay of his predecessor who was in post during the same reporting year. Our current principal was officially appointed in April 2018 and is paid in line with the sector average.”

Former Capital City College Group chief executive Andy Wilson, who was paid £210,000, retired in the summer of 2018.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Further education colleges are autonomous institutions and free to set their own salaries for their staff. However, like all education providers in receipt of public funding, we expect senior staff pay to be fair, appropriate and justifiable to maintain public confidence and to achieve value for money."

'No evidence of runaway executive pay'

The spokesperson continued: “There has been no evidence of runaway executive pay in further education in recent years which shows that our requirements on pay disclosure, and application of best practice by colleges in setting pay, is working effectively across the sector.

“To support this we require all colleges to explain and justify the levels of pay of their senior leaders in their published accounts from 2018 to 2019.”

The best-paid college leaders in 2017-18

  1. Judith Doyle, Gateshead College: £344,000
  2. Garry Phillips, Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College: £279,000
  3. Andrew Cleaves, Birmingham Metropolitan College: £266,000
  4. Dame Asha Khemka, West Nottinghamshire College: £257,000
  5. Colin Booth, Leeds City College: £233,000
  6. Joe Docherty, NCG: £227,000
  7. John Thornhill, LTE Group: £224,000
  8. Matt Hamnett and Kit Davies, North Hertfordshire College: £221,000
  9. Dawn Ward, Burton and South Derbyshire College: £218,000
  10. Andy Wilson, Capital City Colleges Group: £210,000
  11. John van de Laarschot, Nottingham College: £207,000
  12. Paul Phillips, Weston College: £204,000

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