Birmingham University academics have warned they may take legal action over plans to make up to 100 staff redundant.
Association of University Teachers leaders at Birmingham said their legal advisers had suggested that the process adopted by the university for setting up a redundancy committee may be unlawful.
Last week, the university's council agreed to set up the committee to negotiate with unions and sanction any job losses.
Vice-chancellor Michael Sterling said up to 100 jobs may have to go to cover the cost of appointing new staff in growth subject areas.
Union chiefs claimed that Professor Sterling had gone back on a promise made to the university's senate to investigate why the university had to make so many staff redundant.
Birmingham AUT president William Edmondson said there was debate over "whether or not the situation has been deliberately contrived, in order to shed staff. The alternative view is that management is so incompetent they would not have been able to be so Machiavellian."
A university spokeswoman denied that Professor Sterling had changed his mind about providing a report on the university's position. She added: "We are confident that the senate acted correctly in giving the vice-chancellor authority to appoint people to the committee."