All academic staff at Nottingham University have been asked to produce a two-year research plan to determine whether they would be better off sticking to teaching.
The university meanwhile intends to set up a redundancy committee "as a precaution".
Staff have until February 17 to submit programmes likely to secure at least a grade 4 in the next research assessment exercise. If their submissions are judged not up to scratch, they will be advised to concentrate on teaching and administration while most research funding will be channelled elsewhere.
Non-researchers considered to be poor teachers will be directed towards early retirement or voluntary redundancy. The university council has also been asked to set up a redundancy committee "in recognition of the difficult financial position faced by the higher education sector until new income streams are established".
No targets for budget savings or staff cuts have been set. A university spokesman said the object was to help Nottingham position itself towards the next research assessment exercise while easing workloads.
In a newsletter circulated to staff, Lawrie Challis, pro vice chancellor for staffing, said: "The university must avoid overloading its most innovative researchers and teachers.
"The recent RAE produced very many excellent grades and confirmed Nottingham's status as a leading research university. But it also demonstrated the strength and commitment of the competition."
He said the new arrangements should mean academic staff working to their strengths and therefore being more efficient. "The next RAE is on the horizon," he warned.
Sandi Golbey, Association of University Teachers president at Nottingham, said: "We all understand the problems of workload but we fail to see how that can be addressed by establishing a redundancy committee when the university seems to be more interested in dismissals."
She said any problems of underperformance should have been addressed by appraisals rather than by submitting research plans.
Nottingham University came 30th in The THES table of RAE grades and 74th in a table of institutions listed according to rates of improvement in RAE grades since 1992.
This table, compiled by a Bradford University statistician, showed its overall score had slipped by nearly 6 per cent.
The university has also fallen Pounds 900,000 short of savings planned to come from an early retirement scheme introduced last year.