College principals got an average pay rise of just over 4 per cent last year, according to a survey of management pay by the Association of Colleges.
But the variation in pay is such that vice-principals and heads of department in some colleges are earning more than principals of others.
The survey of 194 college heads found that the median salary was just under pound;65,000. The bottom 10 per cent earned less than pound;53,796, while the top 10 per cent were on a basic salary of more than pound;77,613.
Vice-principals and heads of department received average rises of 2.13 per cent and 1.89 per cent respectively, leaving their median salaries at pound;46,570 and pound;37,900.
The top 10 per cent of vice-principals earned more than pound;56,545 - more than principals of some colleges - while the top 10 per cent of heads of department received pound;47,000 or more. The least well-paid 10 per cent of VPs received less than pound;38,792 while the same group of heads of department were on pound;29,809.
The AOC described management pay as "relatively settled" pointing out that the average figures obscured the fact that some principals had not received a pay rise. The average pay of college bosses has risen steadily since incorporation when it was around pound;50,000.
Sue Dutton, deputy chief executive of the AOC, said that the below-inflation rises of management staff showed the need for supplementary pay packages to retain key staff in roles.
She called for a boost to management pay along the lines of last year's pound;50 million "somehing for something" pay package for lecturers, details of which are still being discussed.
"All people who work in the sector have a significantly lower pay award than they deserve. There is not one group or another that deserves more. All pay groups need to benefit and the system needs modernising," she said.
Nadene Cartner, of the Association for College Management, said the issue of pay was of concern right across college departments and job descriptions.
She said: "Everybody in a college makes a contribution to the quality of the student experience, from the reception staff to caretakers, learning support to managers and lecturers.
"Although we are delighted with the government money for staff directly involved in teaching, to attract high-quality staff in shortage areas we feel that this must be only a first step. The next stage must be to improve the salary levels for all staff."
The survey, which was conducted by questionnaire, had achieved around a 60 per cent response rate at the time of going to press.
But comparison with The TES's own survey of 448 principals' pay suggests that better-paid college bosses are less than forthcoming about their packages.
While The TES and AOC bottom figures for the least well-paid managers corresponded closely, the figures for higher-paid staff did not. The top 10 per cent of the TES survey showed an average income of pound;87,000 compared with the AOC's pound;77,613.
None of the AOC sample had a basic salary of more than pound;100,000 as against five principals in the TES survey, who received six-figure pay packages.
Principals' income survey, 36,37