Months of staff dissatisfaction with senior management at Nottingham Trent University resulted in a vote of no confidence in the vice-chancellor this week.
More than 290 staff said they had no confidence in Neil Gorman's leadership. He has restyled the university over the past two years.
According to officials of lecturers' union Natfhe, which led the ballot, senior managers have embarked on major changes that have practical implications for academic and support staff, without employee consultation.
These include an automated timetabling system, pooling of administrative and support staff, open-plan offices, new layers of bureaucracy and the use of expensive consultants. Managers had failed to carry out proper risk assessment of the changes being instituted, Natfhe said.
A spokesperson for Nottingham Trent said: "As with many universities across the UK, Nottingham Trent University is seeking to develop processes and systems that will allow it to address the significant challenges faced by the sector. While NTU recognises that this means a period of change for its staff, it does not believe that this is in any way different from what is happening in the sector generally."
Union officials said that centralised timetabling had caused chaos, open-plan offices made confidential meetings difficult and that pooling non-academic staff had wasted the subject expertise they had accrued to the detriment of students.
"Practicalities like that have a big impact on staff's daily lives and have upset them. Bit by bit, people's confidence and morale have been eroded," a local official said.
Roger Kline, head of Natfhe's universities' department, said: "Most universities manage to conduct their affairs without ever getting to a position where staff move a vote of no confidence in their senior management. When staff do so it is usually very reluctantly and as a last resort."
He said. "It appears that a growing number of managements, under pressure themselves from funding or the incipient internal market, are abandoning a collegial method of management with serious consequences for their mission and the confidence of staff."
The Association of University Teachers, which also represents Nottingham Trent staff, said more consultation was needed between management and the unions over the changes.