Luton University is encouraging high-paid senior academics to volunteer for redundancy as it attempts to free cash for restructuring.
It is thought that as many as 50 older staff holding senior lecturer-level positions could go.
One principal lecturer told The THES that he and a number of colleagues had been called in to see their deans, who have encouraged them to volunteer for redundancy. Some academics have been called in more than once. The lecturer criticised the timing of the call for redundancies in the run-up to Christmas.
Luton confirmed that it had reintroduced its voluntary redundancy scheme but said this simply brought the university in line with others with similar initiatives.
Tim Boatswain, pro vice-chancellor, said staff were "invited" to apply for redundancy between October and December. Those taking up the offer would receive enhanced financial packages, he said. The university will review its staffing position again in the new year.
Mr Boatswain said: "The move is part of a continuing process to ensure the university has the flexibility to invest in its developing areas and respond to the pressures of a competitive market."
A local representative for lecturers' union Natfhe said Luton wanted to reduce its pay budget, adding that unions had been told compulsory redundancies would be imposed if there were insufficient volunteers. Natfhe fears the university will carry out its threat, as too few staff have volunteered. It plans to hold a branch meeting this month to consider action.
Some academics believe a merger with another institution is also being considered by senior management in a bid to improve Luton's financial position.
They say possible partners could include University College Northampton, nearby Barnfield College or De Montfort University, which has two campuses in Bedford.
A university spokeswoman said she had not heard of any merger plans.