Fat cats of the FE world

3rd May 1996 at 01:00
The recent advertisement for the principal's post at Fife College prompts reflection on the extraordinary privileged position enjoyed by FE principals in respect of the public disclosure of salaries. The man who lives in 10 Downing Street, like the man who sweeps it, is paid a salary which is a matter of public record.

FE principals, however, enjoy remuneration protected from the public gaze because the Act removing colleges from local authority control deemed such privacy essential to the effective functioning of the brave new world of further education. From such information as I can gather, I calculate that, in the three years since the Act, the salaries of principals have increased by some 40 per cent compared to the 8 per cent given to their staffs (the latter figure is not a state secret).

FE budgets have been severely pruned in recent years, which makes the largesse awarded to principals all the harder to justify. Organisations which award their top menwomen pay rises vastly in excess of those prevailing elsewhere in the public sector, whilst simultaneously making some of their other employees - the ones actually teaching the students - redundant, deserve to be vigorously questioned. The secrecy surrounding such matters as salaries, conditions and performance criteria has no place in educational bodies still overwhelmingly dependent on public funding. I am aware that these comments may traduce a group of people many of whom are probably not enamoured of the current arrangements. Revealing the truth, is of course, the way to repel criticism of what appears to be the arrival in Scottish FE of the boardroom excesses of recent years.

In the same issue, there was a second advert offering a principal's salary of Pounds 60,000, the salary being awarded by Fife College. This was in an English college with 25 per cent more FTSEs than Fife, which reinforces my point that the yardsticks being applied to assess the appropriate rate for the job are in dire need of more impartial public scrutiny.

RODERICK MacFARQUHAR, 31 Cumberland Street, Edinburgh.

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