Massey University staff fearing for their careers and the quality of education on offer have made a personal plea to management to stop the cuts.
The cash-strapped institution has asked for more than 200 voluntary redundancies across its three campuses in Palmerston North, Wellington and Auckland.
But staff say this will undermine quality and drive students away, and this week several dozen Tertiary Education Union members and university students protested the move outside a Massey Council meeting in Palmerston North.
The union says 245 jobs are on the line.
Georgia Davey, the union rep for the school of natural sciences, said such a cut would come with consequences.
"It would lead to a severe decline in the quality of education at Massey University. We would lose the anthropology degree - the entire department, actually.
"There's a possibility that the sciences would take a serious impact because we need to teach those in person.
"You can't put those courses online and expect people to understand. It's like teaching people to ride a bike by making them watch a YouTube video."
Davey is referring to plans to consolidate courses now taught at several locations to one campus, featuring more online teaching.
She said all the proposals, including one to cut courses with low enrolments, were taking a toll.
"A lot of people feel like we're not being listened to. We're being ignored because they've already made their decisions.
"We're submitting feedback and they're saying that they are reading it, but then the updated policies come out and they're exactly the same.
"We don't feel like we're being listened to and morale's quite low."
Bron Comrie-Evans, from the school of natural sciences, said it appeared Massey was disinvesting in students' education.
"They're talking about 90 to 100 staff they're asking to leave, out of the college of sciences. That's excluding academics out of the college of vet sciences...
"That means out of the remaining maybe about 360 staff we're being asked to shed 90 to 100."
Social sciences staff member Rachel, who has worked at Massey for more than three decades but did not give her surname, said the university should invest in staff.
"I'm actually watching the dissolution of the university as I know it and as I've tried to promote it, and to promote learning, and we're saying the biggest cost to the university is staff, so what we're going to do is we're going to get rid of them.
"That's not acceptable. It destroys the value of university to society."
Value could not always be measured in numbers, she said.
"Even if a course is only taken by one person, that person can go out and do amazing things for the whole country, for society, and if you destroy that opportunity you might as well just be studying things that are popular, like how to play PS5 [PlayStation 5] or how to play on your iPhone."
It is a bleak time for the sector - Otago University on Thursday confirmed 100 redundancies amid nationwide cuts, despite a recent government cash injection of $128 million across New Zealand.
The protesters watched this week as four of their number spoke to a Massey Council meeting.
Reports before the meeting highlighted Massey's dire financial situation - an operating deficit so far this year of about $14m, about double what was expected. That came after last year's deficit of more than $8m.
Pro chancellor Ben Vanderkolk said the university council had to operate in a challenging environment.
"As a council we have asked the vice-chancellor [Jan Thomas] to execute a recovery - not just one measure at a time, but the recovery that's needed to reset the university with some pace and some urgency.
"I acknowledge completely that that exacerbates the pain and the stress that I'm seeing in the room."
Politics professor Richard Shaw said cuts would be felt widely through society.
For example, employers were searching for people with certain skills.
"One of the problems with what's happening at Massey is there's a proposal to disestablish about 40 percent of 170 positions within the college of humanities and the social sciences.
"One of the things we do in our part of the university is to help make sense of things. We train people to think independently and to become critical thinkers."
Post-graduate student Matt Russell, from the Students Against Cuts group, said the Massey proposals made no sense.
"Students are the lifeblood of Massey and these cuts are going to mean that Massey starts losing students, so management just needs to start engaging with the views of students before it goes ahead with these planned changes."
The Tertiary Education Union says the cuts are unnecessary. It wants to see Thomas sit down for talks about a way forward.
The union's Massey branch co-president, Te Awatea Ward, said discussions would be better than the indirect communication staff were now receiving.
"We've got some professors, distinguished professors, brilliant minds here at the university who would like to contribute to making this place a better place.
"Watching a video or reading a memo is not the way to actually have a voice and contribute to a positive difference."
A statement from the university said it was "considering a number of initiatives to address the challenging financial climate the tertiary sector is facing".
"Many of these are not new and have been ongoing for years as the university remains committed to working in a financially sustainable way."
It said "voluntary enhanced cessation" - voluntary redundancies - were one option being explored. They would help reduce costs while "ensuring staffing levels still meet our strategic and operational needs".
"It is important to note that any VEC releases do not target individual positions and instead invite entirely voluntary participation and expressions of interest from staff who may want to explore the opportunity.
"We can advise that some staff in recent weeks have been actively inquiring whether the university would be offering any VEC arrangements for staff."
The statement said the university welcomed the recent government funding boost, but the money would not resolve longer-term financial challenges the sector faced.
"The university remains committed to providing a high standard of teaching and to doing this in ways that are sustainable and which work within our funding provision," the statement said.