Lecturers and staff at Sunderland University have been warned compulsory job cuts may be required to deal with falling student numbers.
An e-mail from chief operating officer Steve Knight and deputy vice-chancellor Professor Michael Young has been sent to staff, inviting applications for voluntary severance
"We recently realigned our professional and support structures as part of a cross-institutional review which reduced our staffing costs by circa £5m," it says.
"We were acutely aware of the challenging external factors that were adversely affecting our financial performance and that we would inevitably have less money to spend in 2016/17 and future years.
"We now need to focus on ensuring that our faculty provision is aligned to our student numbers, income and planned future growth.
"This will inevitably necessitate some reorganisation and restructuring within the faculties during early 2017/18 to ensure we can successfully deliver against our strategic objectives.
"To facilitate this review, we are making a time-limited voluntary severance scheme available to staff which will provide us with an early opportunity to create a more sustainable staffing profile across all Faculties."
Jon Bryan, Regional Support Official for the University and College Union (UCU), which represents teaching staff, said: "The trade unions were informed earlier this week that the University were looking to launch a Voluntary Severance Scheme.
"Such schemes operate in many Higher Education institutions from time to time. We are concerned that this was launched without our agreement, and we have (and will continue to make) representations to the University about this.
"Worryingly for staff, there was a clear statement that compulsory redundancies are highly probable next year. This will be unsettling for staff and students, for an institution that has already seen a great deal of change recently.
“UCU will be working with the other trade unions to do what we can to avoid compulsory redundancies and we will be discussing what steps we take as a branch about this. We cannot, at this stage, rule out taking industrial action."
Non-teaching staff are represented by Unison. Area organiser Stephen Mead said: "Student numbers are down in comparison to where they believe they should be.
"The concern is that if we get to the autumn period and student numbers have not materialised, then there is a possibility - and I state, it is a possibility - that redundancies will occur."
Non-teaching staff had borne the brunt of cuts so far, he said: "Since last year, they have gone through a full review of all non-teaching staff, which has seen a 20 per cent reduction overall in terms of non-teaching staff numbers across the Institution."
The university announced in June last year that it was looking for save around £8million in the financial year 2016/17 financial year, split into £5million on staff and £3million in non-staff areas, which would include the university’s estate/buildings and other running costs.
There had been no indication of how much management were looking to save, or how many posts were under threat in the latest round of cuts, said Mr Mead: "They have not put a figure on it - it is very much seeing how many people come forward looking for voluntary severance and whether they can offer it.
"If people come forward from areas where they can't release them, they won't be released."
A university spokesman said: "Higher education is now an extremely competitive marketplace and while we are performing very well, we must continually realign our operation to ensure we remain as competitive as we are now.
"This means we can invest in the level of teaching and facilities that delivers real value for our students, giving them the knowledge and experience which makes them attractive propositions to a range of employers and organisations."