Academics earned nearly £36,000 on average last year, up by 5.4 per cent on 2003 according to the latest university-by-university figures compiled exclusively for The Times Higher .
The rise was 2 percentage points higher than the national pay award for 2004. But union leaders claimed that a "favoured few" earning huge salaries were disguising a gloomier picture for the majority of university staff.
The figures, detailing pay at every UK university and across all grades from professors to junior researchers, show that the average academic salary was £35,773 in 2004 - 5.4 per cent above the previous year's average of £33,931.
The data, from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, reveal dramatic variations in the average academic salaries between institutions. At one end of the scale, average annual salaries have broken the £100,000 barrier at the London Business School. At the other, they languish below £33,000 at Oxford and Derby universities.
Employers hailed the 5.4 per cent increase in average pay as a welcome sign of healthy investment in staff through promotions and special pay supplements as well as standard annual increments.
But the unions, which this week launched a big campaign for pay rises above 10 per cent in 2006, said the figures were "hardly a matter of congratulations to the employers".
Sally Hunt - general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, which has taken out a full-page advertisement on pay in this week's Times Higher -Jsaid: "Researchers at the start of their career still earn an average of under £26,000, a sum that can be bettered for less well-qualified jobs across the public and private sectors.
"With new money coming into the system over the next five years, the employers must make increasing staff pay a top priority or risk a deepening recruitment and retention problem."
The AUT and lecturers' union Natfhe confirmed that they would start campaigning now to ensure that at least a third of all income from top-up fees next year - some £330 million - is spent on pay.
The Hesa figures reveal that the majority of universities pay an average academic salary of between £30,000 and £40,000.
Behind the £110,000 average paid by LBS, were the London School of Economics and the University of Wales College of Medicine, the only others that offered average pay above £40,000.
The average salary at University College London, the fourth highest payer, was £39,869. It was followed closely by the other London research-led universities, King's College and Imperial College.
At Glasgow Caledonian University, pay rocketed by almost 30 per cent in one year to an average of £36,560. A spokesman said its position had improved because it had recruited a number of "the highest calibre academic staff".
Natfhe said the figures hid the reality for most staff. National official Andy Pike said: "It's similar to the economy getting a boost when a small number of City traders get their £1 million bonuses each year "It looks good, but when you drill down you find that the majority at the chalkface have not done well."
News, page 11