The pressures and workloads facing managers of further education colleges are akin to those of top football club managers, but without the same financial rewards, says a further education leader.
The claim follows a survey by the Association for College Management, which found that nearly a fifth of further education principals and senior managers work more than 60 hours a week. Almost a quarter of the managers spend more than ten hours a week on work they take home.
Of 220 managers who responded to the survey, nearly half said they were working between 49 and 60 hours a week, and 60 per cent said there was no flexibility in their working arrangements.
Peter Pendle, the ACM's chief executive, said that a "long-hours culture" had emerged in further education over the past five years as the number of government targets increased while funding continued to be squeezed.
He said: "Being a college manager has become a bit like being a football manager, because you are under pressure to be among the best, but not every team can win the championship."
"You are working long hours and you are under enormous pressure and, if you get a bad result, it can lead to your removal," he added.
The ACM, which last week held its annual conference, has launched a campaign to challenge excessive hours amid fears that punishing workloads are damaging the health of its members.
The survey found that in the past 12 months, 13 per cent of managers who responded had been diagnosed by a GP as suffering from work-related stress.
Mr Pendle said many college managers were working longer than the law allowed. Working hours are restricted to 48 unless an individual signs an agreement to opt out of the regulations. The ACM survey found that only 4 per cent of managers had opted out.
The long-hours culture among managers exposed other college staff to similar pressures, Mr Pendle added.
He said: "Managers who are under this sort of pressure end up demanding the same of their lecturers and support staff, and that leads to a generally unhealthy situation.
"The only way to resolve it is for those responsible for funding to make sure the demands they make are reasonable and for senior managers to make sure that the culture in their college does not lead to this kind of problem."
* The ACM has called for more financial support for college managers to attend courses run by the Centre for Excellence in Leadership, which held its annual conference this week.
Jane Williams, head of the standards unit and director of teaching and learning for the Department for Education and Skills, said subsidised fees were being made available to managers from underrepresented groups.