Lecturers at Chelmsford further education college are threatening to take industrial action over an "unfair" programme of cuts which will make about one in six teaching staff redundant but leave management jobs untouched.
Union leaders said they would ballot members early next month after staff passed an overwhelming vote of no confidence in the college's principal and governors.
Branch representatives of Natfhe, the college lecturers' union, claim course standards are under threat with the axeing of 11 teaching staff last year and 19 this year, at a time when the college has been beefing up its management team to cope with the requirements of corporate status.
Jenny Parsons, union branch spokeswoman, said two layers of management had been introduced since incorporation in April 1993, while some of the most experienced teachers were being laid off.
"Staff are in despair. They see cutbacks affecting class sizes, course hours and the quality of student resources, while money can always be found for new management posts and administrative suites," she said.
David Percival, the college principal, said the redundancies were being made because the institution was facing a Pounds 330,000 budget cut for 1995/96, resulting from problems in meeting expansion targets set by the Further Education Funding Council for England. Student numbers at the college fell in the first year of incorporation against a national growth target of 8 per cent.
"The problem was we had a period of rapid expansion just before incorporation, which made it difficult for us to grow further at a time when we could not afford to turn down targets," he said.
Mr Percival said there had been cuts in management posts as well as in teaching staff, although new managers had been taken on to meet the administrative requirements of the funding council and examining bodies.