Australian National University staff are set to take industrial action later this year over pay and workloads after gaining Fair Work Australia approval.

The threat of industrial action comes as the university's preliminary budget was released on Tuesday revealing the 2014 distribution would be $4.4 million less than 2013.

ANU Administration and Planning Executive Director Chris Grange said no one college had been targeted for cuts and many staff members had inquired about taking redundancies. ''In each of the colleges we're expecting to have people who put up their hands for early retirement, and the savings from not replacing those staff under the voluntary early retirement program, those support staff, will be the savings they need to balance their budget,'' Mr Grange said.

''The actual cut to each college is exactly the same, it's just that some of the other things that go into the budget like research performance and student enrolments mean that some colleges are going to better able to cope with it.''

The preliminary budget states the 2 per cent pay rise on offer would cost the university $11.6 million.

National secretary of the National Tertiary Education Union Stephen Darwin said the loss of experienced staff would severely affect the workload of staff left behind, and leave students with poorer services.

''Two hundred and thirty people will be walking out the door, many experienced because they're aiming at the over-55 age group, and we'll see a generation's experience virtually [disappear] overnight at the ANU,'' he said.

Mr Darwin said the ANU's salary offer was the lowest of any university in the country and the union would ask members to consider striking.

''We're going to launch a major campaign. We'll have a protected action ballot, which has now been approved by Fair Work Australia,'' he said. ''We will not hesitate to ensure that ANU staff have a decent working life, so they're [not] stressed and going home completely frazzled and they get salaries that compare to other Australian universities.''

Mr Grange confirmed there would be no cuts to academic staff, teaching or research activities.