Anne Nicholls discovers that en suite private bathrooms are becoming must-have executive toys for some principals. When the principal of a London college announced that he was having his own en suite private bathroom installed at his office a few eyebrows were raised.
He justified the move by saying that he needed privacy to "clear his mind", "freshen up" and avoid the embarrassment of being accosted by staff and student subordinates in more public facilities.
There was another reason - having a private bathroom (also equipped with a bath) was "an equal opportunities issue". If you are puzzled by how having bathing facilities could be such an issue, then you may be missing an essential difference between men and women. Male principals are apparently in a disadvantaged position because their urinals are doorless.
When a male principal uses the urinal he could be put in a compromising position if a colleague decides to mention conditions of service, new contracts or average levels of funding - or so the argument goes.
Hence the need for a private loo - but why the bath as well? Alas, there is no convincing explanation. Perhaps it's a way of making sure that no one has cause to say "the management in this place stinks".
Nye Rowlands, principal of Manchester College of Arts and Technology, points out that all his neighbours have had en suite loos for their principals and centre heads for some years now. One was installed at his college although he did not order one himself.
But as the loo is there, he admits that he might as well use it.
There is one good reason why the executive loo seems to have caught on. "While the college has to pay tax on private spaces, it doesn't have to pay tax on a private toilet," he says.
But there is a new wave of principals who have decided that the executive loo is symbolic of old-style management.
Dick Evans, principal of Stockport College, thinks that these particular perks, alongside reserved parking spaces and company cars for senior management are "anachronistic".
One of the first acts as principal was to turn his private toilet into an office. This swiftly followed by an end to the distinction between "staff" and "student" toilets and, naturally, there are no management suites in his college.
"My dream," he says, "is not to have an office at all. It makes sense because I spend so little time in it."
Next time you ring a college to speak to the principal and are told: "I'm sorry, he's in a meeting" perhaps you would be well advised to ask to be put through to the executive toilet suite.