One in 10 staff may lose their jobs at Lincoln University as it revamps the qualifications on offer.
The university's qualification portfolio, including bachelor's and postgraduate degrees, was reviewed last year.
As a result staff across all three faculties - commerce, agriculture and life sciences and environment, society and design - now face job cuts.
Lincoln-based Tertiary Education Union (TEU) organiser Cindy Doull said the restructure would affect eight to 10 per cent of the university's roughly 650 staff.
Two change proposals had already been released to facilities management staff and those in information technology services and another six would be rolled out this week, she said.
"Lincoln is a small campus. Whether it's voluntary or not, there will be eight to 10 per cent of staff going. The mood is going to be fairly grim. To have that big of a hit on staffing numbers is significant."
Lincoln University Vice-Chancellor Dr Andrew West said the university needed to save money to survive in Canterbury's post-earthquake environment.
Its degree-level enrolments for international students fell by 26 per cent between 2009 and 2012. The university needed to save more than $5 million, including $4m in salaries.
But West would not be drawn on an exact figure when it came to how many staff would lose their jobs.
He said $2m of the $4m salary savings target had already been reached, with 27 staff opting for either voluntary redundancy or enhanced early retirement.
"We're not talking 20 per cent [of staff] or anything like that. I suspect it will be less [than 10 per cent]. What is cast iron . . . is the fact that we do have to save money."
West said the changes were also about sharpening Lincoln University's focus as New Zealand's "specialist" land-based university.
Enrolments in the university's "general" courses including commerce or general science had been declining for several years, while "land-based" course enrolments were rising, he said.
"There are some courses that we have decided not to teach in the future."
Doull said the TEU was working with the university to try to reduce the need for compulsory redundancies where possible.
"There are eight change proposals and in each of those . . . there is an element of disestablishing roles. All of them have the opportunity to apply for voluntary severance and/or enhanced retirement," she said.
"It's extremely stressful for people. There will be a substantial change across faculties. People know [the changes] are coming, but they have no idea of the details."
- The Press