Revealed: the best-paid college leaders in England

Former Cornwall College CEO Amarjit Basi tops table after receiving £404,000 in 2015-16 – including a £204,000 pay-off when he resigned last summer

Julia Belgutay & Will Martin

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The number of colleges which spent over £200,000 in a single year on salaries for their principals has risen by 50 per cent, Tes can reveal.

According to new figures published by the Education and Skills Fuding Agency (ESFA), the number of colleges paying £200,000 or more increased from eight in 2014-15 to at least 12 in 2015-16. However the salary of one of the country's top-paid college CEOs has not been included, while several of the figures include one-off severance packages and periods of overlap between leaders.

At the top of the table was Cornwall College Group, which paid £404,000 to its former CEO Amarjit Basi during 2015-16. The college told Tes that his salary had been £200,000, but he had received an additional £204,000 in lieu of notice and other contractual obligations when he left the organisation on July 31 2016. Shortly beforehand, the University and College Union had called on him to "reassess" his salary and take a pay cut as a "supportive" message to staff under threat, after it emerged up to 60 members were under threat of redundancy. The college group told Tes its current principal, Raoul Humphreys, is paid £150,000 a year.

In second place was North East Surrey College of Technology, which paid £326,000 during this period. During this year it was led by former principal Sunaina Mann - the best paid college leader the previous year, during which she received £363,000 – and then interim leader Cliff Hall. Ms Mann resigned in June 2016. A spokesman for the college said current principal Frances Rutter, appointed in November, was paid a salary of £150,000.

Third place goes to Dame Asha Khemka, CEO of Vision West Nottinghamshire College, who according to the figures received £275,000 – £30,000 more than the previous year.

The figures do not include one of the best-paid college leaders in the country. In 2014-15, the salary for Andrew Cleaves, CEO of Birmingham Metropolitan College, stood at £260,000. However no figure was included in the ESFA data for 2015-16. The college told Tes it had not yet published its accounts for 2015-16. Figures for 10 other colleges were also missing from the data.

England's best-paid college leaders in 2015-16

  1. Cornwall College Group – £404,000 (includes one-off payment of £204,000)
  2. North East Surrey College of Technology – £326,000*
  3. Vision West Nottinghamshire College – £275,000
  4. Stafford College – £249,000*
  5. Loughborough College – £241,000*
  6. NCG – £238,000
  7. Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education – £232,000*
  8. North Hertfordshire College – £227,000
  9. Gateshead College – £214,000
  10. The Manchester College – £207,000
  11. Hadlow College – £204,000
  12. Lincoln College – £200,000 (figure disputed by college)


* These colleges stressed there had been an "overlap in leadership", so more than one person had been paid to carry out a principal/CEO role.

Source: ESFA

'This is not a traditional principal's role'

NCG’s chief executive Joe Docherty had a total salary package of £238,000 which, according to the college, includes his base salary of £227,500, as well as a 5 per cent bonus. A spokesman for the college said: “NCG is not a single further education college, but the UK’s largest national college group. The chief executive heads an organisation comprising five colleges and two training organisations which work across the UK in more than 60 locations. This is not a traditional FE college principal’s role, and comparable organisations in the private sector which we often compete against for many of our contracts, would pay considerably more.”

Loughborough College spent £241,000 on principal salaries. A spokesman said the data reflected an overlap in leadership: “It is therefore inaccurate to describe Loughborough College’s chief executive as among the 12 highest-paid principals/CEOs in England. We are currently recruiting a new principal at the £140,000 band.”

A spokesman for the Grimsby Institute added: “The figure of £232,000 is correct. However during 2015-2016 our principal and CEO was on long-term sick leave and as a result the group incurred costs to provide an acting CEO. I can confirm the salary of our CEO is £150,000.”

A spokesperson for The Manchester College said: “The salary quoted refers to the chief executive officer for our wider LTE group, of which The Manchester College is a part. LTE group is a £190 million turnover organisation employing around 5,000 people and includes other education and skills providers.”

A spokesperson for the board of the Hart Learning Group , of which North Hertfordshire College is part, said: “Matt does a great job which is why he is one of the best paid CEOs in the sector. A significant element of Matt’s compensation is based on performance, including some long-term measures.”

A Lincoln College spokesman said the £200,000 figure was "not accurate". He added: "Chief executive Gary Headland’s basic salary is £160,000 per annum, with a provision for up to 10 per cent performance-related pay, along with a modest car allowance. This does not equate to £200,000."

A spokesman for Hadlow College said its CEO was responsible for the Hadlow Group, which comprises Hadlow College, West Kent College and Ashford College.

Stafford College was unavailable for comment. However the figure for 2014-15 was £110,000. Former principal Beverley Smith departured in October 2015, and Ian Clinton was hired as interim principal the following month. In November 2016 the college merged with Newcastle-under-Lyme College.

The figures have been included in a financial benchmarking tool for colleges published by the ESFA.

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Julia Belgutay & Will Martin

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