The National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education's pay demand would mean a massive 14 per cent increase for an average lecturer's salary of pound;18,000. It represents an 11 per cent rise across the union's 55,000 members in managerial and teaching jobs.
An Association of Colleges insider described the claim as "ambitious" but NATFHE general secretary Paul Mackney defended it, saying: "Something on or about inflation is not going to be enough. It is time there was a catch-up element."
"Our members have fallen way behind school teachers. This would take those at the bottom of the scale to around pound;21,000 which does not compare very well with what teachers receive after five or six years.
"This pay claim is basically to restore relativity with teachers taking account of the way in which those at the bottom of the scale have been harder hit because they have been trapped in pay bands."
Mr Mackney said ordinary college staff had been inflamed by the league table of principals' pay, published in The TES last month, which showed that some college bosses were taking home more than pound;100,000 and had enjoyed rises of as much as 300 per cent since incorporation.
He said that there was widespread support in the sector for an across-the board increase, illustrated by David Melville, Further Education Funding Council chief executive, commenting that the "generous" pound;365 million of extra funding for the sector in 2001-02 would "allow colleges to address the pay issue".
The inability of the AOC to enforce pay increases will be highlighted next week when they publish a survey expected to show that around a third of colleges did not meet the 3 per cent rise recommended last year.
The AOC refused to comment on the detail of the pay claim before a meeting of employers and unions to consider it in April.But Jocelyn Prudence, director of employment policy, said: "We share the concerns about the widening disparity on pay between college staff and staff in schools."