Glasgow University's unions have accused management of adopting "scare tactics" by threatening compulsory job cuts in a bid to get staff to sign up for voluntary redundancy.
Ian Black, Glasgow's director of human resources, this week sent an e-mail to all staff warning that the voluntary severance scheme designed to combat a multimillion-pound deficit is set to fall far short of its target of 280 posts.
His e-mail says that depending on the outcome of the voluntary scheme, Glasgow "may quickly submit compulsory redundancy plans to court". He warns that the scheme would close on September 16, adding: "There are no plans for a new voluntary scheme."
The university claims the severance deals on offer can be ten times more generous than compulsory redundancy terms, but, to be considered, staff must express an interest before Friday.
However, the unions are angered by the deadline, arguing that it is premature since they are meeting management next week to clarify the university's financial situation. Glasgow has set a savings target of £10 million, but the unions say they are still waiting for a report on the cost of the university's capital projects.
Mr Black's e-mail says that, once staff register interest in the scheme and alert their manager, the deadline will no longer apply, giving them more time to consider the terms. "Raising the matter with your manager... does not commit you to taking voluntary severance and will not disadvantage you subsequently," it says.
But Bill Stewart, convener of Glasgow's joint union liaison committee and vice-president of its Association of University Teachers, said: "Our advice to staff is that if they feel they don't want to go, they shouldn't go. If they feel pressurised, they should get in touch with us."
A university spokesman said the university court would review the voluntary target on October 5, adding that it was impossible to put a figure on the correct shortfall. He said there were no plans for compulsory redundancies.