Some 191 Irish academics in third-level colleges are on fat-cat salaries in excess of €150,000, with three earning over €250,000, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
For the first time, the full extent of the hefty salaries across all third-level colleges has emerged.
According to official figures released by the Department of Education and obtained by this newspaper, in total 91 professors and lecturers are currently being paid between €150,000 and €200,000; a further 97 are being paid between €200,000 and €250,000 and three are being paid over €250,000.
Over 75 per cent of the €8.59bn education budget is absorbed by pay and pensions. This means that all other education services must be funded from the €2.14bn non-pay element of the budget.
The number of extravagant salaries is a major embarrassment to the Government, and shows the difficulty it faces in bringing "reality" to salary levels, as promised by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin.
A large proportion of those earning the highest salaries are medical professors, who are also paid separately by the HSE, and can earn several hundreds of thousands of euro from their private practices.
The Department of Education has confirmed that all of the salaries quoted are "based on current contracts of employment".
All of those who are earning more than €200,000 are currently employed Ireland's seven universities. The figures were released to Limerick TD Patrick O'Donovan who supplied them to the Sunday Independent.
University College Cork, (UCC), has the highest number of highly paid academics. Some 46 earn over €150,000, with 34, including president Dr Michael Murphy (€232,151), earning between €200,000 and €250,000.
Ireland's leading university, Trinity College Dublin, has a total of 35 professors and lecturers being paid in excess of €150,000. Apart from newly appointed Provost Phil Prendergast's salary of €201,492, two of the three being paid in excess of €250,000 are based in TCD.
At Ireland's largest university, UCD, alongside president Hugh Brady, whose salary is €202,116, there are 31 academics earning in excess of €150,000. At €263,602, Prof Des Fitzgerald may be Ireland's highest-paid academic but he has actually seen his salary fall from €409,000 in the past year.
Head-hunted from the College of Surgeons, UCD says research income has more than tripled under Prof Fitzgerald's watch.
Critics say his salary level is inappropriate in a university facing severe budgetary cuts and one with debts of more than €12m.
Of the 17 academics in UCD in the €200,000 to €250,000 pay bracket, 14 are medical professors and three are non-medical staff. They are Dr Brady, biology professor Boris Kholodenko (€234,000) and vice president Eamon Drea (€202,000).
NUI Galway disputed the figures saying they were "grossed up" and were not reflective of the situation.
"NUI Galway only have three people who earn more than €200,000, the president (€202,117) and two medics (these salaries are composed of two elements partly from the university and partly from the HSE, in respect of their work as doctors outside of the university) and four who earn more than €150,000," a spokeswoman said.
In response to the figures, a spokeswoman for Mr Howlin said: "Some 89 personnel listed as having salaries in excess of €200,000 are academic medical consultants. Academic consultants represent about 3.5 per cent of the approximately 2,500 medical consultants employed in the Health Service.
"Since January, all new appointees to medical consultant posts are subject to a 10 per cent reduction.
She added that Health Minister James Reilly was currently engaged in a process to reduce the salaries of medical professors.