Members of the Association of University Teachers at the University of Hull have passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in vice-chancellor David Drewry, claiming that planned job losses would leave poet Philip Larkin's celebrated library "decimated".
Calling for an inquiry into the management and finances of the university, the AUT said budgets were in disarray and senior managers were quitting.
The vote was held at an emergency meeting called by the union last week.
Hull AUT secretary Trevor Jarvis said several people came specifically to talk against the no-confidence motion "but after the facts were presented, there was not a single vote against".
Mr Jarvis said that in the midst of redundancies for more than 100 staff, the university had tried to "sneak through" a further nine dismissals within academic services that would be likely to hit the library - formerly run by Mr Larkin - particularly badly.
"While we recognise all universities face financial problems, we are very concerned that the university is opting for a quick fix and not a long-term solution," he said.
National AUT president Jane McAdoo said the university was being crippled by incompetent management: "Hull is a great university with world-renowned and dedicated staff. But now they are fighting to get out. We have to reverse this before it is too late. The city has already lost one university [Lincoln has scaled down its presence], to lose another would be a disaster."
She said the university had lost eight senior managers this year, no permanent finance officer had been in post for months and the university had failed to fill senior posts. "Word gets about, no one wants to take the poisoned chalice," said Martin Machon, assistant general secretary of the AUT.
A university spokesman said the vote of no confidence reflected the views of a minority of university staff. "We expect a small surplus at the end of this financial year. This surplus will be invested into our staff and improving infrastructure.
"The white paper, and the actions resulting from this by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, has fundamentally changed the environment in which the university operates. We have had no increase in funds for teaching and saw a small reduction in research funds. Despite this, our three-year financial plans show that the university will remain in the black. When I arrived in 1999 the university had a £5 million growing deficit. There have been no compulsory redundancies and we are in a consultation process, with voluntary redundancy packages being made available."
The AUT claimed no proper consultation had taken place and said shedding staff as a matter of regular policy weakened the income earning base and damaged the university's reputation.