The University of Otago is at risk as an institution if a plan to cut 182 staff goes ahead, the Tertiary Education Union says.
On Friday, vice-chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne revealed the plan to cut 182 of its 2000 non-academic support staff jobs.
Prof Hayne said it had been 20 years since administrative services were thoroughly reviewed.
A new system of providing support services could save the university more than $16 million a year, she said.
Shaun Scott, organiser of the Tertiary Education Union branch at the university, said members were naturally concerned about what these proposals would mean for themselves and their families.
"But equally, they are extremely worried about the risks posed to the institution."
Under the plan, support services, such as student advice and support, would be cut from individual departments and replaced by more standardised services.
Union members would work to highlight the detrimental impact of the plan, Mr Scott said.
Prof Hayne had been told the consequences of losing nearly 200 general staff would soon be felt in the classroom, Mr Scott said.
Staff have until the end of August to respond to the proposals, with a final announcement due in September.