The Tertiary Education Union is opposing a plan for major job cuts in the design and visual arts department of Auckland polytechnic Unitec.
It says the polytechnic plans to cut 50 of the 54 jobs in the department and replace them with just 17 positions.
The union says Unitec's proposal is one of the biggest restructurings in the polytechnic sector in recent years.
It says Unitec wants to replace permanent academic staff with part-timers who are working in the design and visual arts industries and warns that will harm the quality of education.
Union secretary Sharn Riggs said on Thursday that many students and their parents are furious.
"The lecturers that they have been working with are going to be replaced by people who we suspect don't have the same qualifications as staff who they're proposing to make redundant."
Student Marisa Vodanovich says the institute has told them their course of study will not be harmed by the proposed changes, but people are worried.
"We have 50 lecturers and tutors now and the information that has been released today shows that in the new year that will be reduced down to 17 staff. There are almost 600 students and we're concerned about how 17 staff will be able to deliver the course that we've started this year."
Ms Vodanovich says students value their tutors and want to complete the courses they paid for.
Unitec won't comment in detail, saying the proposal is still under consultation.
However, it says cost-cutting is not behind the move and it is trying to bring the department closer to the design and visual arts profession. It says the changes have the support of professional body the Design Institute.