The federal government will cut University of Wollongong funding by almost $100 million over four years, according to new union modelling.
The university is preparing to increase student fees to recoup the lost funding, but the likely scale of the hikes remains unclear.
Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings said this week he was waiting to see whether the government's entire package of changes would pass through both houses of Parliament, or whether the model would be "nuanced in some way".
He dismissed suggestions of "huge" fee hikes.
"I suspect people are sort of over-egging the scale of the fee change," he said.
"I suspect they'll be more modest than people are making us assume at the moment.
"It's an incredibly dynamic policy space and one where there are no easy answers. It's quite easy to be glib here, and my sense is that we need to see the details coming out of the Senate to understand that this is really sophisticated change we will have to come to grips with."
From 2016, the government intends to reduce its contribution to student fees by 20 per cent. At the same time, it will lift the cap on the total course fees universities can charge students.
National Tertiary Education Union NSW secretary Genevieve Kelly said the two changes combined would prompt universities to increase course fees by 30 per cent on average.
The union estimates UOW will lose $95.8 million in Commonwealth funding between 2016-19.
Ms Kelly said the union had not overestimated average fee hikes, unless universities planned to recoup costs through other means, such as job cuts.
"Our costings are based on current conditions in a university. Professor Wellings has unfortunately not even come to the party in terms of an enterprise agreement for the University of Wollongong, so we wouldn't know if he's planning to drastically cut staff."
The comments came as a group of about 45 UOW students and staff met to rouse interest in a National Day of Action to oppose the cuts, in Sydney on August 20.
Cunningham MP Sharon Bird told the group, called UOW Uncut, that the government had been "misleading" in advising how scholarships would be created for disadvantaged students under the new funding model.