Hull University has set out an ambitious £20 million plan to reposition itself as a top 20 university.
Key proposals include: a 20 per cent rise in student intake within five years; doubling research income within four years; reversing a £5 million deficit; and major reforms of teaching programmes to make them more "market-led".
The aim is to move Hull up more than 15 places in national league tables within the decade.
"These changes will affect almost every aspect of university life," said vice-chancellor David Drewry, who took office less than a year ago.
He then embarked on a major review of the university's teaching, research and administration, known as "The Way Forward".
"We have rejected the idea that the university can either stay as it is, or be downsized - that would be too painful. Instead we are planning on growth in some key disciplines, but we have to be selective with investment in areas where goals can be achieved," Dr Drewry said.
"It then follows that there will be disinvestment from other areas of activity. Whatever happens, our core business of teaching and research has to undergo changes to expand and be competitive."
Staff are alarmed by the changes, although Dr Drewry said job losses would be kept to a minimum and achieved through natural wastage.
Heads of schools are preparing forecasts for development up to 2004 and detailed decisions will be made by December.
Historian Janet Blackman, spokeswoman for Hull Association of University Teachers, said: "The Way Forward Group's proposals have convinced few of us here. In fact, we find them quite alarming. The disruption to academic staff is the one thing that simply hasn't been costed. There has been a lack of proper discussion about what all this will mean for Hull."