Vice-chancellors have again accepted pay rises far higher than those offered to their staff, prompting accusations of double standards from academic unions.
The average pay rise in 2002-03, the latest year for which figures are available, was more than 6 per cent, taking the average vice-chancellor's pay package to £135,000, according to a survey by The Times Higher .
Academics were offered 3.5 per cent over the same period.
Members of the Association of University Teachers, upset with a pay offer of just over 3 per cent this year, will strike next week.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the AUT, said: "The results of this survey go to show why so many academics and related staff are willing to take industrial action over pay.
"At a time when the employers are telling staff there's only enough money for pay rises just above 3 per cent per year, it emerges that on average in 2002-03, vice-chancellors received increases of more than 6 per cent."
Roger Kline, head of universities at lecturers' union Natfhe, was also angered by the figures, which show that of the 164 university and college heads surveyed accepted pay hikes of more than 10 per cent.
He said: "There can be no defence for vice-chancellors and principals giving themselves pay rises that are more than those they deem appropriate for their staff.
"Our members take a dim view of double standards. Many vice-chancellors claim that their additional pay rises are due to improved performance of the institution they head. Staff won't understand why that affects the pay of chief executives but not the staff who helped achieve it."
But a spokeswoman for Universities UK said that the vice-chancellors and principals had received a smaller pay rise than other heads of public-sector organisations.
She said: "Vice-chancellors do a demanding job as chief executives of complex, multimillion-pound organisations. Their remuneration packages reflect what it takes to attract and reward individuals of sufficient calibre, experience and talent in a highly competitive international market.
"It's noteworthy that this year's percentage increase of 6.4 per cent is below the average increase for chief executives in the public sector overall, which is 7.1 per cent."
Two vice-chancellors - Dame Janet Trotter at Gloucestershire University and David VandeLinde at Warwick University - donated part of their rises to their universities.
Laura Tyson, dean of the London Business School, was the highest-paid head of an institution, earning £315,000 in the year to July 31 2003, roughly the same as the previous year.
But she was not the highest-paid academic at the all-graduate school. The accounts show that, excluding the dean, one member of staff at the LBS earns between £380,000 and £389,999.
Martin Sorrell, chief executive of advertising agency WPP Group and deputy chairman of the governors of the LBS, said the salaries reflected market rates for academic talent in the area. "We operate in a global market that competes not only for students but faculty too. We have to be practical about it."
Second in The Times Higher 's league table is Sir Richard Sykes, rector of Imperial College London. Sir Richard earned £251,000 - up 15 per cent on the previous year. This is a fraction of what he earned as chief executive of GlaxoWellcome. Imperial, however, does not pay Sir Richard a pension; the pension from his previous post nets him some £700,000 a year.
A spokeswoman for the college said: "Sir Richard has a proven track record as a scientist and as a business leader with global experience.
Universities have to be increasingly creative in their thinking to meet the challenges of the expanding higher education market."
Gurmit Hukam, principal of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, earned the lowest salary in the survey. He was paid £45,000 last year, including pension contributions.
HOW V-C PAY COMPARES
- Tony Blair, prime minister: £175,000
- Sir David King, government chief scientific advisor: £150,000
- Sir Paul Nurse, as chief executive, Cancer Research UK: £140,000
- Ian Stewart, chief executive, Bradford City Council: £1,000
- John Taylor, as director general of the research councils: £125,000.