The University of Tasmania is slashing its number of degrees and courses from about 514 to 120.

The university says it is struggling with financial challenges, including an “over-reliance on China” for students in light of coronavirus travel restrictions.

Vice Chancellor Rufus Black has told UTAS employees that their institution is “facing sustained headwinds to being long-term sustainable”.

Professor Black the university is “not making enough progress to be the right size to be sustainable even in the short term”.

“The year sees us start a long way behind our budget and with more financial challenges to come.”

He acknowledged that the COVID-19 outbreak revealed an “over-reliance” on students from China.

UTAS said it will reduce staffing levels through “natural turnover and redeployment” but has not put an exact figure on how many jobs will disappear.

“We have thought a lot about the timing of doing this work with the coronavirus situation evolving,” Professor Black said.

“We know we face significant financial challenges today and into next year. By getting going now, we have the best chance to do this in a planned way, over an appropriate time.

“We are fortunate that for us the pressures aren't at a level requiring redundancies decided quickly and we have the time to do this well.”

He said UTAS would unwind a “tangle of complexity” in its course offerings by culling most of them, reducing options being offered by about 75 per cent.

The university’s current course structure “makes for a picture which is truly bewildering, both for our students and our staff who have to work with it”, Professor Black said.

“This challenge is not news to us. We have been aware of it for years. Many of our people will have been involved in prior attempts to address it.

“For these reasons, it is important that our focus is not on how we arrived here; but on how we as a community intend to move on from here.”

Professor Black said UTAS will be going over its 2021 course offerings in coming months.

The National Tertiary Education Union says staff were shocked at the announcement this week.