THE number of principals earning more than pound;100,000 a year has nearly doubled for the second year running, an FE Focus pay survey reveals this week.
But, compared to company directors, principals remain good value for money.
The average turnover of colleges, including income from the Learning and Skills Council, was pound;12 million: firms with equivalent turnover would offer much higher salary packages.
No fewer than 63 UK colleges pay their principals more than pound;100,000.
Average principals' pay is pound;81,000, according to the survey, which includes extra "emoluments" such as bonuses and pensions and covers the year up to July 2002, based on colleges' audited annual accounts.
Our survey covers 459 colleges in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Eight colleges are listed as having paid less than pound;50,000 - although in some cases the pay figure has been affected by changes of principal.
The highest figure is for Huntingdonshire Regional College, at pound;189,000 - but this included a severance package of a principal who left during the year.
And, according to the Association of Colleges' own research, principals'
pay increases have been modest compared to those of their junior managers.
The figures were still being analysed by the AoC as FE Focus went to press but already it is clear that principals got an average basic increase of 5.1 per cent on basic salary, compared to 6.3 per cent for level five managers such as subject specialists.
The AoC's figures show that 38 principals are on more than pound;100,000 a year in basic salary alone. Ivor Jones, employment policy director, said:
"Once again we see that college boards have had to be extremely careful in containing the pay of their most senior managers. The median increase for principals is likely to be lower than that for many staff. Excluding the inflation component at 2.5 per cent, the average increase for principals stands at 2.6 per cent."
Natfhe, the lecturers' union, has welcomed the increases for relatively low-paid managers but says it will continue to press the case of staff who are not in management positions.
Barry Lovejoy, who heads Natfhe's pay negotiating team, said: "We don't begrudge senior managers getting pay increases. But, as regards lecturers'
pay, it does show the money is there when they need it."
Strike ballots are expected next month in more than 20 colleges which have failed to pay last year's agreeed increase for lecturers, of 3.5 per cent.
Peter Pendle, general secretary of the Association for College Management, said the demands of the job, and the challenges of working with governors have meant higher salaries have been needed to fill vacancies.
While many colleges will seek to base principals' pay on the earnings of junior managers and other staff, his members accept that there will be cases where the link is not maintained.
He said: "Governors generally have a good relationship with their principals although there have been some horror stories and at times being the principal of a college can be a little like being the manager of a football team.
"The salaries of principals are often awarded based on what is offered to the rest of college staff through national negotiations but that is not always the case. You have to pay the rate to get the job done. I think most of our members who are not principals understand that.
"One of the unforeseen effects of the de-layering of the management structure of colleges is that there aren't so many people just below the top level ready to take over. In some colleges you might have a principal and a deputy principal and then you're straight down to the third tier of management.
"Of course, some people get as far as the third tier and decide that's enough."
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