Pay for senior managers in Scotland’s higher education sector have risen by an average of more than 4% last year.
According to figures obtained by the Herald newspaper, the largest increase was 24% for Professor Steve Chapman from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.
He was given a £20,000 increase in basic pay and £20,000 bonus in 2012/13, bringing his salary package to £210,000.
The second highest increase was 11% for Professor Dame Joan Stringer for her final year as the principal of Edinburgh Napier University.
Professor Seamus McDaid, the out-going principal of West of Scotland University took an 8% pay rise in his last year, bringing his salary to £235,000.
The principal of Stirling University, Professor Gerry McCorman, was given a 6% increase to £205,000. A spokesman said the extra money went to a fund to help students.
The newspaper said the highest-paid principal is now Professor Sir Jim McDonald from Strathclyde University who earns £262,500 after a 5% increase.
Many other principals had no pay increase and others took a 1% rise.
The rises have been criticised by unions representing university staff as they are being offered a 1% increase.
Mary Senior, Scottish official for the University and College Union, said: “The hypocrisy of principals taking pay rises of up to 24% last year will not be lost on staff working in universities.
“These are the same university ¬principals who have talked down to their staff and told them to accept a 1% increase – representing yet another real-terms pay cut – as it is the best they can expect.
“What is acutely embarrassing for the sector is the complete lack of self-awareness from principals over their pay rises, and their continued greed underlines the urgent need for greater scrutiny of pay and a role for staff and students on remuneration committees.”
A spokeswoman for Universities Scotland, which represents principals, said: “Of course we expect principals’ salaries to come under intense scrutiny, but it’s important to give the figures some context. Many principals have taken a below-inflation increase over the last year. In instances where the increase is higher, we’re aware of at least one case where an uplift was agreed following many years in which the principal in question refused to take an increase.
“Universities are highly efficient users of public funding and receive more than half of their funding from private sources. Principals are in charge of multi-million-pound enterprises and responsible for many thousands of staff and students and hundreds of stakeholders. It is a complex and demanding job which commands a high salary.”