Average pay settlements for college lecturers are running at 4 per cent, compared with 3.15 per cent last year, according to union figures.
But the latest details from the Further Education Lecturers' Association show that so far only 19 of the 46 colleges have reached agreements for 2004.
The increases range from 5.4 per cent at Perth college to 2.5 per cent at Jewel and Esk Valley college. Many colleges are in the middle of three-year deals and others have struck staged pay rises, with further hikes due at the beginning of next year.
Meanwhile, local bargaining continues to have an impact on lecturers' pay, with the gap between the best and lowest payers showing no sign of closing.
The highest earners, with more than half the colleges still to settle, continue to be the staff at James Watt college in Greenock, with an average Pounds 31,483, compared with Dumfries and Galloway college, which pays pound;27,059. The average at the top of the scale so far is pound;28,961.
This leaves a gap of pound;4,424, slightly narrower than last year's Pounds 4,793. But the 2003 figure significantly widened on the pound;3,618 recorded in 2002.
Dumfries and Galloway College, which was in dispute with lecturers last year and had a pay standstill for two years, has begun trying to catch up, adding pound;1,600 to the top of the pay scale.
Marian Healy, further and higher education officer with the Educational Institute of Scotland, believes colleges have "turned the corner" in reaching pay settlements during the year in which the award is due - and without the recourse to industrial action of previous years.
But the union remains concerned about the disparity of incomes for lecturers doing similar work in different colleges.