Up to 130 staff are to be made redundant at the University of Exeter.
Students on threatened courses can finish their studies
Lecturers and support staff in five departments will lose their jobs because a number of loss-making courses are being axed.
The shake-up will affect the School of Music, the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, and the School of Modern Languages.
Students on threatened courses are being told that they will be allowed to complete their studies.
Three single honours degree programmes will be shut down - music, Italian and chemistry - because of losses being made the institution.
Science subjects alone are losing more than £3m a year, the university said.
The university's vice chancellor, Professor Steve Smith, said he did not want to continue pumping money into departments which were not performing.
He said: "At the moment, what we're doing is putting money into places where we are losing it, in some cases losing it for over a decade.
"Our alternatives are to either pump money into loss-making activities, or to put it into where it will make more money for the institution."
The Royal Society of Chemistry said the decision to stop offering the subject as a stand-alone degree would be a major blow to the economy of the South West.
About 2,600 people work at the university, but most of the jobs lost will be among lecturers.
Bernard Pearson from lecturers' union the Association of University Teachers said: "We don't want to bankrupt our employers, that's in nobody's interests.
"On the other hand, we do want people who have made a lifetime's commitment to this institution, who have regarded the institution as a loyal employer and who have been loyal employees, to be treated properly."
About £4m will be used to fund any pay-offs and talks about the terms of redundancy have already started.