Lecturers may face increased compulsory redundancies if the government introduces early retirement reforms.
Lecturers' union Natfhe said a proposal to raise the early retirement threshold from 50 to 55 could restrict universities' ability to make savings through voluntary redundancies.
Tom Wilson, Natfhe's head of universities, said: "In the new universities it will make restructuring harder. They may be forced to contemplate compulsory redundancy where previously a voluntary package could have been offered. Natfhe will fight compulsory redundancy."
The proposal is one of about 70 in Winning the Generation Game, from the Cabinet Office's Performance and Innovation Unit. The report, due to have been published yesterday, is seen as an attempt to cut unemployment among those aged 50 to 65.
Tony Bruce, policy director for the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, said: "Universities have found it useful to give staff in that age group early retirement. If the proposal was adopted there might be compulsory redundancies if there was a one-off cut that the system could not absorb."