The Vice Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) has warned of tough times after announcing it needs to make £9m of savings this year.
The university put a figure on the cuts to be made ahead of the government's spending review in October.
Michael Brown said courses in politics and geography had already been axed, with many others under review.
He said he couldn't rule out job losses, saying LJMU had "to prepare for uncertainty and for the worst".
He said: "Our biggest spend is staff, we have already lost about 170 staff through voluntary severance this year, and that is likely to continue in the future.
"Of course staff is our biggest resource, our biggest asset, so we are reluctant to go down that route but we may be forced to do so."
Professor Brown said students had to be the priority.
"The government are talking about making sure that universities are well financed in the future, but until announcements are made in October we just don't know, we have to prepare for uncertainty and for the worst.
"We also have to make sure that those students who are currently on our courses are seeing out their courses and are looked after as they go."
Universities face their tightest budgets for decades, and the government is having a major rethink of England's higher education funding system.
Universities Secretary Vince Cable has said the coalition was keen to investigate the idea of a variable graduate contribution or tax.
He outlined a possible system where graduates would pay an increased rate of taxation, which would be higher for higher earners.
But senior Conservative sources later suggested the government was "unlikely" to back the idea.