Hide and seek with college stats

Last week, I reported that we were unable to tell you the number of criminal record checks which have been carried out in colleges because, as the Home Office put it, its statistics have to be "quality-assured and tested" before they can be released to the great unwashed from the world of journalism.

Of course, the answer to our question, in the current climate, may have been one the Government would have been reluctant to release, although I'm sure this is merely a coincidence.

It appears, however, that the Learning and Skills Council had no such qualms about releasing another, presumably more important, set of figures - this time showing how generously lecturers are paid.

Into my pigeon hole has dropped a bunch of statistics from the funding quango which suggest lecturers are positively rolling in cash - at least in Bury St Edmunds.

According to the LSC's financial "analysis" of colleges, hot off the press, average lecturers' pay at West Suffolk college is a mouthwatering Pounds 51,656-a-year.

It is, apparently, one of more than a dozen colleges which are paying their lecturers more than pound;40,000 a year.

Before we start a flood of plumbers wanting to retrain as lecturers, I should advise against swallowing these figures without at least a pinch of salt.

"Either we filled the forms in wrongly or there has been an error at the other end," said a baffled senior manager at West Suffolk. "We pay the Natfhe agreed rate, which would make our average salary around pound;30,000."

Asked why the figures were released, Richard Healey, the LSC's finance director, explained: "It shows our commitment to openness."

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