Australian Catholic University has foreshadowed job losses as it stands to lose $126 million in revenue over the three years to 2022 because of the coronavirus crisis.
However, union members say the university is using the crisis to cut jobs, pay and benefits despite continuing to project surpluses.
ACU management said it expected its revenue shortfall for this year to be about $22 million, rising to $50 million in 2021 and just over $54 million in 2022.
Vice-chancellor and president Professor Greg Craven told staff the university would implement cost-saving measures and reinvest surpluses to cope with the financial impact of the pandemic.
"This is an unavoidable reality within a sector-wide impact of COVID-19 and the decline in student numbers and revenue," he said.
"As always, the wellbeing, safety and success of our people are our highest priorities. We are doing all we can to keep losses to a minimum."
The university will aim to reduce salary costs by $42 million over three years by reassessing work requirements, reducing casual and sessional employment and managing leave balances.
It will cut $31 million in non-salary expenses, including capital expenditure, and reduce its surplus by $53 million over three years.
The National Tertiary Education Union branch president for ACU, Dr Leah Kaufmann, said the union was not consulted on the cost-saving measures.
Dr Kaufmann said the university should draw down on savings and surpluses before putting the burden on staff.
It is unknown how many jobs will be lost, but course offerings at the Canberra campus are not expected to be impacted.
ACU has experienced a reduction in the number of international student enrolments. Overseas enrolments usually made up 13 per cent of the student body before the pandemic.
ACU is planning a staged return to on-campus learning in semester two, supplemented by online course delivery.
The university has campuses in Canberra, Adelaide, Ballarat, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Rome.
Universities Australia previously warned that 21,000 jobs could be lost in the sector in six months.