College principals have been lambasted as “greedy and hopelessly out of touch” by the University and College Union, after new analysis showed a third enjoyed a pay rise of more than 10 per cent in 2016/17.

Data on last year’s college accounts was released this morning by the Department for Education.

It revealed that 17 principals earned salaries of over £200,000, and the union’s analysis of the 220 colleges included in the data found that 81 (37 per cent) gave their principal a bumper pay rise of more than 10 per cent.

These massive raises are all the more controversial, given that college staff across the country have been driven to strike action after they were offered a measly a one-per-cent increase of their own.

The union also pointed out that several colleges – including the likes of Hull College Group and Bradford College, both of which are planning huge job cuts – were not included in the data raising “serious concerns” about accountability.

Vision West Nottinghamshire College, whose principal was paid £275,000 in 2015/16, was also omitted from today’s release.

Sally Hunt

The accounts data can include pay for more than one post-holder because of ongoing mergers across the country – but the UCU said this is “no excuse” for inflating leadership pay.

“College principals who pocket huge pay rises while pleading poverty on staff pay look greedy and hopelessly out of touch,” said UCU general secretary Sally Hunt.

“Many of the worst offenders are at recently merged colleges, but we are clear that mergers are no excuse for inflating senior pay.

“The fact that several colleges are not included in the data also raises serious questions about accountability to students and taxpayers. We urgently need much greater transparency in how senior pay is decided to ensure that leaders at all colleges can be held to account.”

The UCU told FE Week in December that colleges must justify staff who are paid over £150,000 a year, after our analysis of 2015/16 accounts showed 71 leaders earned salaries of that size or more.

Today’s publication of accounts show that 73 principals alone earned £150,000 or more in 2016/17.

The figures also confirm FE Week’s exclusive story last month, which revealed Matt Hamnett, the former principal of North Hertfordshire College, was the highest-paid principal last year.

He was paid £294,000 on top of a £47,000 pension contribution and benefits in kind worth £1,000 last year – or just over one per cent of its entire turnover of £30 million.

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One comment

  1. Leonard Wickes

    Do many colleges have multiple principals and a CEO I wonder?

    Perhaps this could be a reason why the colleges you mentioned in your article are reluctant to publicise how much they receive?

    In my experience, principals seem waft from one institution to the next. Often they have no connection to the area or region in which the work. After a couple of years, they run out of ideas or upset too many people and for whatever reason move to the next “flower in need of pollenating”.

    In colleges where most of the funding comes from the government, perhaps there ought to be a government imposed cap on SLT pay. This might then curb the enthusiasm of those just in it for the cash and encourage people who are genuinely interested in the community their institution serves and in education.

    To my way of thinking, colleges need three main things. Facilities, teachers and most importantly students.

    I feel it seems that supposed need for consultants tends to be born of the problems brought about by poor managers and poor regulation and government policy.

    All colleges need some management, but my experience is that many institutions are too heavy with people who are not student facing and are short on people who can effectively deliver to students.

    If anything, principals are often the cause of much stress and upheaval, especially the ones who are inexperienced or who just believe that managing people is about coercion.

    I also believe that it should be law that after completing a term as a principal or CEO (say 2 years) it would be an excellent idea for that person to then have to go back as a practitioner for a full year teaching before they become eligible to hold office again. This would help to stop them being so divorced from the rank and file and ensure that people ascending to such office are real educationalist who believes in life long learning and not just chasing a pay check.

    Government, if you are reading this, think on. These ideas could save you real money and improve standards and performance long term.