Anger has erupted over "fat cat" salaries among college principals as hundreds of further education leaders gather for an annual conference in Birmingham today.
Union leaders claim 25,000 teaching jobs have been lost from colleges over the last decade as resources have shifted to "middle and senior management". They also called on four Midland colleges to honour a nationally-negotiated pay deal giving lecturers' pay parity with school teachers.
But the claims were dismissed by college management officials as misleading, and they said that proportionally more managers had lost their jobs than lecturers.
The University College Union spoke out against what it called "micro-managing" of a dwindling pool of lecturers by senior managers.
Principals at 26 colleges in the West Midlands' earned more than #2.5 million between them during the #2004/05 academic year, including "benefits in kind" and pension contributions.
The highest earners include Christine Bullock of Matthew Boulton College, whose salary including benefits and pension contribution was #138,000; Graham Jones at Sutton Coldfield College (#136,272); Tony Henry at City College in Birmingham (#134,000) and Ioan Morgan at Warwickshire College (130,000).
Roger Kline, head of equality and employment rights at the UCU, said: "UCU estimate that around 25,000 teaching jobs have been lost in the sector and resources allocated, in particular, to middle and senior management who spend their time micro-managing a smaller and smaller cohort of teaching staff.
"The second element is that there are different rules when wages of principals are determined when compared to teaching staff." The Association of Colleges, which begins a three-day conference at the International Convention Centre today, claimed they were not over-paid given the size of the businesses they lead.
Sue Dutton, chief executive of the AoC, said: "The UCU are misleading the public by suggesting that college lecturers' pay have fared less well than managers in further education colleges."
Last night Barry Lovejoy, head of further education at UCU, demanded action from colleges that had not yet brought in new pay scales.
He has singled out Cannock Chase, Matthew Boulton, North Warwickshire & Hinckley and Stoke-on-Trent among 106 colleges nationally.
Matthew Boulton College: #138,000
Sutton Coldfield: #136,272
City College Birmingham: #134,000
Warwickshire College: 130,000
Walsall College: #119,371
Solihull College: #113,600
Worcestershire College: #103,488
Solihull Sixth Form College: #92,102