The number of principals earning more than pound;100,000 has almost doubled, to 37, and college corporations have had to get their cheque books out to attract recruits, as record numbers of principals quit for better-paid jobs or retirement.
There were big bonuses for principals dealing with failing colleges, including Alan Birks, who saw his total package rise to pound;116,000 when he was seconded to Bilston.
The survey of colleges in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland shows the biggest gains were made by top-paid principals in England. Two-thirds of principals saw their pay, plus emoluments, increased by more than three times the rate of inflation. Two in 10 enjoyed rises above 10 per cent. Four in 10 saw between 5 and 10 per cent, and four in 10 got less than 5 per cent. Lecturers received 4 per cent in the same year.
Paul Mackney, general secretary of Natfhe, the lecturers' union, said: "If people are told they are being offered 2.3 per cent by people who have awarded themselves twice that amount, I don't think it is going to go down very well.
"We represent lecturers and they are paid on average pound;21,500 compared with schoolteachers on an average of pound;25,700, and we need to close that gap."
Natfhe members will strike for one day on January 30 if talks with the Association of Colleges on January 13 fail to result in a "catch-up" offer.
Principals' wage inflation is being driven by poor pay on the lower rungs of colleges, according to the Association for College Management. It says staff are leaving for private sector jobs rather than pursuing careers in further education. Evidence for this is also revealed in a survey of senior management pay by the AoC (see page 34).
The ACM says the financial problems which have prevented colleges from implementing nationally agreed pay rises will be eased with the extra funding announced by Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary.
Mr Clarke said college funding would increase in November from pound;4.4 billion to pound;5.6 bn in 2006.
Peter Pendle, general secretary of the ACM, said the money should be used to end the pay dispute and prevent a repeat of the patchy implementation of previous pay settlements. He said: "They have national pay bargaining for schools, sixth forms and local authorities, so why not in colleges?
"Colleges are independent and have their own financial problems, which can make pay a difficult issue. We recognise these problems but with the extra money from Charles Clarke that argument has become outdated. What we need to see from the AoC is some leadership. They need to say to the colleges: 'Let's get this problem out of the way once and for all.'"
Pay tables, 32-33