Employees at two universities and one institute may lose their jobs, as managers struggle to contend with falling student numbers and budget deficits.
Southampton Institute is planning to cut courses and lay off 50 members of staff.
Next week, governors will be asked to approve a strategic plan and proposals to axe the institute's construction courses and scale down programmes in engineering and maritime studies.
The move follows under-recruitment by about 500 full-time equivalent students last year and an expected 5 per cent drop in numbers this year. It will mean the loss of about 30 administrative jobs and 20 academic posts.
The institute has drawn on its financial reserves and sold property it had intended to turn into a residential training centre in order to head off a projected deficit of nearly Pounds 2 million.
Institute principal Roger Brown said: "We have to work within the constraints of a higher education market that has changed radically in the past two years with the introduction of tuition fees. Last year we saw a flattening of demand and this year student applications are down."
Institute managers were meeting union leaders today to discuss the proposed job losses.
Meanwhile, Liverpool John Moores University is planning Pounds 7.5 million in cuts over the next three years.
Vice-chancellor Peter Toyne has confirmed the news in his termly address to staff, warning that the cuts should "ideally need to be recurrent savings, so that we can balance the books".
Decisions about where the cuts will be imposed will be made at a governors' meeting in July, but staff fear redundancies.
Professor Toyne said: "It will not be easy and it is certainly not palatable to be having to do this."
He also warned staff about the higher education sector's "pay problem". "Obviously good pay increases (after the Bett review) would be good news, but only if someone can find the money to fund them," he said.
One in six academics jobs will be lost at Thames Valley University as the university cuts costs to ensure its survival.
Lecturers and academic managers will account for all but six of the 93 job losses announced by TVU's acting vice-chancellor, Sir William Taylor, last Thursday. The university must find Pounds 6.3 million so it can implement the recovery plan ordered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England after last November's highly critical Quality Assurance Agency report. TVU must make additional savings of Pounds 8 million a year for the next three years.
Sir William said he hoped that all 93 would go voluntarily, although he refused to rule out compulsory redundancies. Redundancy packages will be discussed with unions over the next two months.
Of the 67 lecturers to lose their jobs, most are in the schools of English language education and European and international studies and law.
The axe will also fall on 26 management posts, of which 20 will be academic managers.
A second wave of job losses is planned in the next academic year targeting mainly non-academic administrators. More academic jobs may go if the university fails to meet its student recruitment targets this year. Applications are down by about a fifth on last year.
The TVU branch of lecturers' union Natfhe is to challenge the university over the scale of the academic job losses. Branch official Stuart Goodden said staff were in a state of shock at how many academic jobs would go.
As The THES went to press, Natfhe members were debating a motion of "lack of confidence" in TVU governors. The union has written to the chair of governors, Sheila Forbes, expressing members' concerns about the board's role before and during the administrative problems that led to the QAA report.