Colleges spend more on principal pay while staff face pay freeze

College chief pay rises an 'embarrassment for the sector’

More than half of college leaders received a salary increase last year – at the same time as their staff were subject to a pay freeze, new figures suggest.

The Association of Colleges’ refusal to offer a pay rise on behalf of its member colleges in 2015-16 led to national strikes involving two unions. But analysis of new data published by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) reveals that, in the same year, almost 60 per cent of colleges increased their spending on pay for their principal or CEO.

According to the ESFA data, 12 colleges paid their leaders £200,000 or more this year – up by 50 per cent from the previous year. Tes published the full list last week.

And with the figures for 11 colleges missing from the data – including Birmingham Metropolitan College, which paid CEO Andrew Cleaves £260,000 the previous year – the total number could rise further.

Significant trends

The figures for some institutions cover periods during which they underwent changes in leadership and overlap between principals, as well as one-off bonuses. While the college accounts published by the ESFA are incomplete, they do highlight significant trends in college leader remuneration. Around one-fifth of colleges spent the same amount on their leaders’ pay as in 2014-15, with a similar proportion spending less.

Andrew Harden, head of further education at the University and College Union, says: “College leaders who tell staff that the money is not there for a fair pay rise – all while pocketing massive pay rises themselves – are an embarrassment to the sector.”

He adds that the figures “shine a light on the seemingly arbitrary nature of pay at the top in further education”, and calls for greater scrutiny: “With college mergers on the horizon, there may be some senior managers who think this is an ideal time to increase their own pay packets.”

‘Competitive’ salaries

James Croft, executive director of the Centre for the Study of Market Reform of Education, says that if colleges want to attract “talented, experienced, and committed people”, they “have to be able to make a strong and competitive offer”.

“In fact, comparing education executives’ pay to similarly skilled professionals in other sectors – and properly relating it to the degree of responsibility involved – it appears obvious we should be paying our executives even more than we do now,” he adds.

This is an edited version of an article in the 28 April edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. Your new-look Tes magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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