Massey University wants to stop offering science degrees at its Albany campus in Auckland from the end of this year as part of a drive to cut spending by $18 million a year.
The proposal would force more than 400 students to either move to Massey's Palmerston North campus, or find another university.
Conversely, the university proposes to stop offering degrees in computer science and postgraduate engineering at Palmerston North, forcing a smaller number of students to either move to Auckland or change universities.
The proposals, confirmed in a discussion document, are even more radical than staff had feared.
"We are all just reeling from the shock," one scientist said.
Massey student president Stefan Biberstein said students did not know what would happen to them.
"Lots of students are either worried that they are going to have to uproot themselves and change campuses, or else they are not aware of it," he said.
"Staff are terrified that they are going to lose their jobs or be forced to move."
The discussion document says the university's costs have risen more than its revenue and it needs to cut spending by $18.1m a year, including $5.1m in the College of Sciences.
It proposes slashing staff costs in the College of Sciences by $11.7m, or 15 per cent.
Enrolments in Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees at Albany would cease from the end of this year.
Science degrees would still be offered at Palmerston North majoring in chemistry, earth science, ecology, environmental science, maths, microbiology, molecular genetics and biochemistry, statistics and zoology.
Majors in physics, plant science and marine biology would be abandoned completely.
Similarly, enrolments would cease at Palmerston North from the end of this year in computer and information sciences at all levels and in postgraduate engineering.
A leading Albany-based mathematician, Distinguished Professor Gaven Martin, said the Albany campus would lose most of its 668 fulltime-equivalent students in the School of Natural and Computational Sciences, apart from about 250 who are majoring in computer sciences.
He said 40 to 45 Albany-based academics would also have to either move to Palmerston North or look for jobs elsewhere.
"The staffing is of the order of 70, although it's not likely to impact maybe 25 to 30 in computer science," he said.
"We have more than 100 PhD students - what's going to happen to them?" he asked. "They have specialist supervisors who won't be around.
"Plus we have about 200 masters students here, I believe. They are not going to be allowed to continue for the second half of their masters."
A university spokesperson said all students "would be supported to complete their qualification".
The discussion document says: "Transition arrangements and curricula would be used where necessary to ensure current students could undertake a coherent course of study to complete their qualifications."
But it adds: "In some instances, rather than a transition curriculum noted above, current students could be offered the opportunity to transfer to another campus."
The College of Sciences proposal is expected to be followed by similar proposals in the university's other colleges of Business, Creative Arts, Health, Humanities and Social Sciences.
The university "plans to remove duplication of its face-to-face offerings across more than one campus, aside from where demand and infrastructure investment warrant it".
"There will be one anchor campus for each subject where the subject will be taught face-to-face, plus a world-class digital online offering. Academic staff who teach that subject will generally be located on the same campus," the university said.
However the discussion document says developing a digital science curriculum was "not possible in the short time frame required by our fiscal constraints".
The proposals are open for submissions until March 16.