Low pay for college managers is leading to a recruitment crisis, further education chiefs warned as they released details of top salaries this week.
The sector is struggling to fill vacancies in key management areas such as finance, human resources and information systems, according to the Association of Colleges.
Its annual senior salary survey reveals that principals' salaries range from Pounds 44,695 to Pounds 93,671, with the median at Pounds 60,000. Deputy principals earn between Pounds 34,000 and Pounds 60,000, and departmental and faculty heads between Pounds 19,864 and Pounds 39,381.
The AoC's deputy chief executive, Sue Dutton, said that the survey showed that the image of the fat cat college principal was a myth. "Suppressed levels of pay are universal in the sector," she said. Principals' salaries have increased by just 3.3 per cent since the sector was freed from local authority control in 1992.
The AoC said that the sector was failing to compete with the private sector and even with some public sector areas, leaving colleges with "alarming" problems filling management vacancies.
The survey revealed a 38 per cent turnover of principals in the past two years.
Problems recruiting in information technology and in management information have worsened since last year, the AoC said. In the management information field, a key government priority for improvement, 81 per cent of colleges reported difficulties filling vacancies, with one in ten reporting that they were unable to fill vacancies.
Half of colleges have had difficulties recruiting human resource specialists. In finance, 68 per cent reported difficulties.