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Pay of college bosses jumped by quadruple the recommended rate

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English College principals increased their pay by four times the rate recommended by the sector’s employer body, the University and College Union (UCU) revealed today (Thursday).

New financial analysis by the union shows that 26 principals received pay rises of over 10% in 2021/22 and one principal’s total package rose to over £360k. The average increase was 4%, four times higher than the 1% employer body the Association of Colleges (AoC) recommended for staff in that year.  

The AoC sets salaries so low that qualified lecturers are paid as little as £26k. It has so far failed to make any recommendation on pay whatsoever this year (23/24), despite the government providing additional funding to colleges on an “equivalent” basis to the school funding which resulted in teachers getting a 6.5% increase. 

The analysis comes with strike ballots set to open at 89 colleges across England next week in a fight over low pay and poor working conditions. It shows:

  • Government increases to English college funding mean the sector will get at least £700m more in 23/24 than it did three years ago (2019/20), when funding for students aged 16-19yrs began to rise.
  • By 2025 colleges will also get at least £1.8bn more from government for investing in facilities, buildings and equipment.
  • More than two-thirds (70%) of colleges are now in surplus, meaning they bring in more each year than they spend, up from around half (53%) in 2018.
  • From 2016-2022 the sector’s total debt fell by almost half (47%) from £1.7bn to £0.9bn, while its cash and short-term holdings increased by 40% to £1.5bn over the same period.
  • From 2020-22 spending on staff increased by just 1.4%, whereas the amount being spent on buildings and equipment jumped by over 50% (52%).
  • The number of full-time equivalent teaching staff has fallen by a fifth since 2015-16.

UCU is demanding a pay offer in excess of RPI inflation, a national workload agreement and binding national pay negotiations.

College staff work an average of two days extra every week for no additional pay, and salaries have fallen 35% behind inflation over the past 12 years.  

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘Our analysis shows the money is there for college bosses to raise pay and treat staff fairly. It is completely unacceptable that employer body the Association of Colleges has so far failed to make any recommendation on pay for the coming year, especially when school teachers are getting an increase of 6.5%.  

‘College bosses now need to spend less on buildings, reign in their own salaries and use some of the cash they have in the bank to support the staff who keep their colleges running. 

‘Our members are well aware their pay is being held down while college principals rake in more than ever and next week they will begin voting to strike in our biggest ever college ballot.’

Sector Response

Davide Hughes, CEO of Association of Colleges:

“AoC is in important pay negotiations with UCU and other unions after we won one of the biggest funding increases the college sector has seen for over a decade. We recognise that this funding boost comes after years of underfunding and is therefore only the first step in bringing pay in colleges to where it should be. At this stage we are still unclear what the extra funding looks like for individual colleges and consequently for the pay award recommendation we will make. The Department for Education is working through those allocations to colleges now.

We have a meeting with UCU and the other college staff unions scheduled for September where we aim to be able to make a meaningful offer which utilises all of the extra funds we have won and reflects the severe cost of living crisis we know college staff are facing.

AoC has worked hard to persuade government that the current staff recruitment and retention crisis in colleges serves nobody – it is bad for colleges, communities, businesses and the country. Most importantly, funding cuts since 2010 have resulted in pay that is not fair for college staff. Every college leader wants pay to be at a level that attracts and retains staff and adequately rewards people for the hard work they do. We will continue to work with the government, the opposition, the Department for Education and others to constantly make the case for better and more sustainable funding, with pay as the top priority.

We don’t want to get distracted by historical data on senior leader pay which is not accurate. By the meeting in September, we expect to have a clearer picture of what the extra funding for colleges means and will move ahead on the facts and figures to hand.”

The colleges being balloted from Tuesday 5 September:

  1. Abingdon and Witney College
  2. Activate Learning
  3. Askham Bryan College
  4. Bath College
  5. Bishop Auckland College
  6. Blackburn College
  7. Blackpool & The Fylde College
  8. Bolton College
  9. Bournemouth & Poole College
  10. Bridgwater and Taunton College
  11. Brockenhurst College
  12. Brooklands College
  13. Burnley College
  14. Burton and South Derbyshire College
  15. Bury College
  16. Calderdale College
  17. Cambridge Regional College (Camre)
  18. Capital City College Group
  19. Chelmsford College
  20. Cheshire College South & West
  21. Chesterfield College
  22. Chichester College Group
  23. City College Plymouth
  24. City of Bristol College
  25. City of Liverpool College
  26. City of Wolverhampton College
  27. Colchester Institute
  28. College of West Anglia
  29. Craven College
  30. Croydon College
  31. Darlington College
  32. Derby College
  33. DN Colleges Group
  34. Dudley College
  35. Ealing, Hammersmith & West London College
  36. East Coast College
  37. East Durham College
  38. East Sussex College Group
  39. Exeter College
  40. Farnborough College of Technology
  41. Furness College
  42. Gloucestershire College
  43. Heart of Worcestershire College
  44. Heart of Yorkshire Education Group
  45. Hugh Baird College
  46. Isle of Wight College
  47. Lambeth College
  48. Leeds College of Building
  49. Leicester College
  50. Loughborough College
  51. Middlesbrough College
  52. MidKent College
  53. Milton Keynes College Group
  54. Myerscough College
  55. Nelson & Colne College Group
  56. New City College
  57. New College Durham
  58. New College Swindon
  59. Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group
  60. North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College
  61. Northampton College
  62. Nottingham College
  63. Oaklands College
  64. Orbital South Colleges
  65. Petroc
  66. Plumpton College
  67. Runshaw College
  68. SK College Group
  69. South & City College Birmingham and Bournville College of FE
  70. South Devon College
  71. South Essex College
  72. South Gloucestershire and Stroud College
  73. South Thames College Group
  74. Sparsholt College
  75. Stoke-on-Trent College
  76. Strode College
  77. Suffolk New College
  78. Tameside College
  79. TEC Partnership
  80. Truro & Penwith College
  81. Walsall college
  82. Warrington & Vale Royal College
  83. Weston College
  84. Weymouth College
  85. Wigan & Leigh College
  86. Wiltshire College
  87. Windsor Forest Colleges Group
  88. Wirral Metropolitan College
  89. Yeovil College

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