Managers at the University of Central England have drawn up an unprecedented points system for deciding which staff to make redundant.
Union leaders were outraged when five lecturers in the built environment department were sent compulsory redundancy notices after scoring 15 points or less in the system's first trial.
The system was designed to help managers decide which lecturers should lose their jobs in specialist fields that have seen significant falls in recruitment over the past three years.
It awards more points to staff who are on new contracts, earn a lot of money for the university and who are all-rounders, while penalising specialist teachers on old contracts.
Managers used the system to construct a league table of staff in the built environment department, picking the bottom five for redundancy.
The move was condemned as "draconian" and "educational vandalism" this week by union leaders who have promised a ballot on industrial action in protest.
Stan Emmett, UCE branch secretary for Natfhe, the university and college lecturers' union, said the system was constructed in such a way that mediocre managers passed with flying colours while very good specialist teachers were in danger of failing.
It also made little sense to penalise teachers in a largely teaching institution where new contracts did not require lecturers to undertake research.
"This system was obviously designed to target front-line teaching staff. I have never heard of anything like it, except in production-line industry," he said.
Peter Knight, UCE vice-chancellor, said: "Whenever there is the possibility of redundancy, there is a duty on the employer to have an objective and transparent system for selecting staff. That normally means a points system."
He added that staff who felt they had been unfairly selected for redundancy would have until mid-June to appeal.
UCE's redundancy point score
Qualifications and experience: One point for each of the following: HNC, bachelor degree, master degree, PhD
Breadth of experience:
One point for each: classroom teaching, course design, course management, external examining
Teaching contact hours:
From one point for up to 100 hours per academic year to five points for 500 hours plus
Contract: new - five points,
old - three points
Research: from 0 to five points, depending on publications and number of research students
External income generation: 0 to five points