THE salaries of the top earning college principals in Scotland can be revealed today.

A survey by The Herald shows the highest earning official is Paul Little, from City of Glasgow College, who was paid £153,000 in 2014/15.

The salary is higher than that of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who is entitled to earn £145,000, but who only claims £104,000.

Former Edinburgh College principal Mandy Exley, who left her post in June last year, was the next highest paid earning a salary of £145,000.

In July it emerged the college, the largest in Scotland, is facing a deficit in excess of £5 million because of a failure to recruit enough students to meet its targets.

Third in our list is Susan Walsh, the principal of Clyde College, who was paid £144,750 in 2014/15.

Last year, Ms Walsh was suspended and then reinstated amidst allegations of a bullying culture at the college and her long-term future at the institution is still unclear.

Rob Wallen, who recently left as principal of North East Scotland College, and Audrey Cumberford, from West College Scotland, were joint fourth highest paid earning £138,000.

Colleges have defended the pay levels arguing that principals have significant responsibilities with multi-million pound budgets and hundreds of thousands of students and staff.

The last few years have seen a raft of mergers across the sector with a reduction in the number of senior staff, but an increase in the responsibilities of those who remain. However, unions argue managerial pay is reaching unacceptable levels.

John Gallacher, Scottish organiser for further education at public sector union Unison, said: “The salary levels of principals have become too high in our view.

“In future the salaries should be determined through the national collective bargaining procedures that affect all staff and there should be a formula to determine the levels and range of management salaries.

“It’s outrageous that the principal of a college can earn ten times that of the lowest paid employee in the same institution and this needs to be addressed.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union, added: “Clearly, the job of a college principal carries a significant degree of responsibility so this will inevitably be reflected to a degree in the level of remuneration.

“However, it is important that salary levels for senior staff should be agreed through a similarly fair, robust and transparent process as that applied to agreeing pay for lecturing and support staff.

“Colleges are public bodies and the majority of their funding comes from public finances, so it is essential that a robust process is applied to setting senior pay to ensure good practice and value for public money.”

However, a spokeswoman for Colleges Scotland said the salaries recognised the significant roles college principals undertook on behalf of the sector.

She said: “While the remuneration of college principals is clearly a decision for the boards of individual colleges it is important to remember that these roles, as chief executives of large multi-million pound public sector organisations, are complex and demanding and commensurate with similar roles in other parts of the public sector.”

Salaries of Scottish College Principals 2014/15

College Principal Salary

City of Glasgow Paul Little £153,000

Edinburgh *Mandy Exley £145,000

Glasgow Clyde Susan Walsh £144,750

North East Scotland *Rob Wallen £138,000

West Scotland Audrey Cumberford £138,000

Ayrshire Heather Dunk £132,750

South Lanarkshire Stewart McKillop £132,750

Fife Hugh Logan £132,500

Dundee & Angus *Christina Potter £132,000

New Lanarkshire Martin McGuire £126,000

Glasgow Kelvin Alan Sherry £120,000

Perth Margaret Munckton £112,00

Forth Valley Ken Thomson £110,000

West Lothian Mhairi Harrington £106,377

Inverness Diane Rawlinson £104,565

Borders Liz Mcintyre £103,632

Dumfries & Galloway Carol Turnbull £95,000

Moray *Frank Hughes £92,000

North Highland Donald MacBeath £83,000

Lews Castle Iain Macmillan £77,000

West Highland Lydia Rohmer £68,611

* principal no longer in post