Past and present staff have been left dismayed to learn up to 600 subjects will be on the chopping block as Charles Sturt University looks to make up its virus-affected revenue deficit.
Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor John Germov made the announcement on Tuesday that 13 per cent of the university's 4751 subject offerings would be made redundant.
Identifying the subjects to be cut, the university has confirmed, will come down to course popularity. Subjects that attract fewer than 10 students, Professor Germov said would be considered "financially non-viable".
Up to 550 subjects were in that range last year.
"This is inefficient and we need to scale back in areas like those," Professor Germov said.
"Subjects with only a few students are not only financially non-viable but do not deliver a great student experience. We are spread too thin, and this also affects the quality of our subjects offered."
The cuts are expected to make up much of the $49.5 million that the university says has been lost in the wake of the COVID-19 downturn.
"We are reviewing whether courses are a good strategic fit, financially viable, have sufficient market demand based on current enrolment figures, and provide high quality and distinctive learning experience for our students," Professor Germov said.
Former education lecturer at the university David Gilbey disagrees with assessment believing the numbers-based criteria will leave the advanced and senior-level subjects at greatest risk.
"From an ideal learning point of view, having fewer than 10 students is best. It means there is more access to lecturers, more connection between peers who have a more focused standard," Mr Gilbey said.
"Bulk learning nearly always lowers the quality of outcomes."
Lecturer in the faculty of arts and education, Dr Dominique Sweeney, said the decision was too heavily based on the financial value, without an assessment of the educational merit.
"[If] every subject is put down into one of three columns - viable, not viable, needs further investigation, then anything with low numbers is considered not viable and it will be up to the dean of each faculty to make a case for why it should be kept," Dr Sweeney said.
"Our dean is trying to do that, but it will also come down to what management says. Just because you have low numbers doesn't mean it should be considered not viable."
Dr Sweeney also questioned the timing of the cuts as the aptly known as the 2001-2002 millennial 'baby bonus' generation readies for tertiary education.
"The 'baby bonus' kids are coming through their HSC into uni now, this is the worst time to be cutting subjects," Dr Sweeney said.
"What happened when they hit primary school and high school was numbers absolutely doubled and schools over the past decade have been exploding at the seams as a result. Universities are about to feel that pump."
Further information on the courses that will be lost will be delivered in August and September of this year. Students currently enrolled in subjects that a deemed to be non-viable will be allowed to complete the unit before it is discontinued for future enrolments.
It is understood the university also hosted virtual meetings on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the fate of staff in the wake of previous job cut announcements. The outcome of those meetings was yet unknown at the time of publication.