Irish universities may be slipping out of the top world rankings, but our college dons are still amongst the best paid professors in the world.
New statistics from the Department of Education reveal that after six years of austerity budgets, 67 academic staff in the university sector have salaries in excess of €200,000.
Despite efforts by a series of education ministers to bring university pay in line with international norms, 83 staff are still on salaries of €150,000 to €200,000, while a further 943 employees earn between €100,000 and €150,000.
Overall, the figures reveal that 1,093 of the 4,327 academic staff in the university sector earn more than €100,000 per annum.
The CEO of the Irish Universities Association, Ned Costello, said: "Although a number of professors are paid quite highly, take home pay of the average professor has gone down by about 23pc. . . all our universities are still amongst the top 500 in the world."
An investigation compiled for the Public Accounts Committee in 2010 revealed that the average pay levels of €113,000 for professors - the highest teaching grade in Irish colleges - surpassed comparable countries such as the UK, Canada and the US.
Last week, the issue surfaced again after questions about academics' high pay were raised in a parliamentary question tabled by Fine Gael TD Brian Walsh.
Higher Education Authority figures supplied to the Sunday Independent reveal that despite cuts, Irish professors continue to be highly paid by international standards.
Professors at the bottom end of the pay scale earn €106,516, rising to a final figure of €136,676. Professors can also assume senior management roles within the university, up to and including the presidential post, resulting in a higher salary.
In very exceptional hiring circumstances, the Universities Act does allow universities to offer higher salaries to academics. The Sunday Independent has learned that 15 such appointments have been made under this framework this year.
These include five appointees to University College Dublin (UCD), three appointees to Dublin City University (DCU) and two appointees to Trinity College Dublin (TCD).
Currently, the highest salary paid under this framework is €256,930. Mr Costello said these rates could be offered "to hire a star international researcher who simply will not take employment here for the rate on offer".
Figures supplied by TCD and UCD reveal that the average pay for professors is €138,350 and €134,150 respectively.
The Department of Education does not have any comparative data relating to salaries paid in other EU countries.
However, the average pay for professors in high-profile competitor colleges continues to lag significantly behind their Irish counterparts.
These include Oxford in the UK (€106,193), Cambridge (€111,445), American colleges such as Berkeley California (€124,002) and comparable sized European universities such as Twente in the Netherlands, where professors earn an average of €96,000.
Commenting on the figures, the Minister for Education Jan O'Sullivan noted that 129 of the 150 third-level staff who earn more than €150,000 are academic medical consultants.
Others who earn more than €200,000 include UCC President Dr Michael Murphy, TCD Provost Patrick Prendergast (€201,492) and NUI Galway President Dr James J Brown, according to the figures.