Page last updated at 10:09 GMT, Friday, 9 April 2010 11:09 UK

Call to limit college bosses' pay

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

Many colleges face large budget cuts

College principals' pay should be capped, a union is arguing, as thousands of jobs in the further education sector are at risk.

Unison, which represents support staff, says college leaders' pay has risen by over 40% in the last eight years, up to as much as £184,000.

The union is also mounting a fight back against job cuts and pay freezes, resulting from cuts to some budgets.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) said pay must attract the best applicants.

A recent survey by the AoC suggested many colleges were facing cuts of as much as 25%.

Jobs are being cut at colleges across the UK
Dave Prentis

Speaking at a conference on further education in Edinburgh, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis called the hikes in principals' pay "unacceptable".

He said: "Hundreds of jobs are being cut at colleges across the UK, including Manchester, St Helens, Birmingham Metropolitan, Richmond-upon-Thames and Barnet college.

"We also have colleges, like Glasgow Nautical, closing down their campus nursery.

"At the same time, college principals' pay has risen by more than 41% in the last eight years, taking some to as high as £184,000," he continued.

Unison says up to 1,000 college posts have been identified for redundancy as colleges in England seek to balance the books.

But there are estimates that as many as 7,000 jobs could go over the next few years.

Nicola Broady, AoC Senior Employment Analyst and Adviser, said colleges were independent organisations, with governing bodies that were aware of their publicly-funded status and who used their funding wisely.

'Balance the books'

She added: "College principals are generally paid less than vice chancellors at universities with equivalent student numbers, for example, and private sector organisations with equivalent turnovers.

"It is also important that colleges, which are complex, multi-million pound organisations, are professionally run and pay grades reflect the need to recruit the best."

The government is committed to making £340m of efficiency savings across further education and skills for the financial year 2010-11.

And colleges say they are losing up to £200m from adult learning budgets.

University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt said: "Further education has a crucial role to play in helping to retrain people during the recession.

"However, this cannot be achieved on the back of swingeing cuts. The government's own figures show that 130,000 people will miss out on a college place as a result of planned savings and over 7,000 jobs are at now at risk in adult learning.

"The government has to appreciate that cuts have consequences for staff, students and the local community."

'Funding prioritised'

A Labour Party spokesperson said investment in further education colleges for post-16 learning, including capital investment, had increased in real terms by 57% between 1997-98 and 2008-09.

"For 2010-11 financial year, £3.5 bn will be allocated by the Skills Funding Agency to FE colleges and training organisations to deliver high quality, relevant FE and skills training to an estimated 3.4m adults - this is an increase of 2.9% on last year.

"The reduction in estimated funding places is a result of prioritising funding towards apprenticeships, advanced apprenticeships - essential for the new industries and jobs of the future - and other work based learning as well a continued focus on longer courses rather than shorter, less economically valuable courses.

"Staff pay, including that of principals, and staffing numbers are decided by individual colleges, which are independent organisations."

'Boom and bust funding'

But the Conservatives said: "Unison are right to say that Labour's mismanagement has hit colleges hard.

"We are determined to replace the boom and bust cycle of college funding with a much simpler, fairer system.

"We've already announced plans to fund 100,000 extra college places, provide £100m to support adult learning and cut bureaucracy so teaching staff can spend less time in the back office and more time in the classroom."

A Lib Dem spokesman said the party would cap public sector pay rises at £400 per person for two years to limit the growth of the public sector pay bill while ensuring fairness for teachers, nurses, police officers and other public sector workers.

"This cap would apply to college principals. By capping pay rises in this way we will ensure that those with the lowest salaries receive the highest percentage increases," he said.

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