Some colleges have issued statutory notices warning staff that they expect to cut jobs.
The figures were revealed in a survey by lecturers' union Natfhe which is expected to be completed today. As FE Focus went to press, the union said 23 of the first 79 college branches to reply reported that redundancies are expected.
Up to 300,000 adult places are expected to go as courses which fall outside government priority areas face the chop in colleges seeking to keep within next year's budgets.
The Department for Education and Skills has urged principals to raise more money from fees.
The priority areas include some level 2 (GCSE-equivalent) courses for adults, basic skills courses and expansion in the number of 16 to 19-year-olds staying on after school.
Darlington college has already said that it expects to make cuts in staff numbers.
Early returns from the survey suggested 45 per cent of colleges have raised fees to minimise cuts to courses. Fees have risen by as much as 50 per cent in some cases.
Paul Mackney, Natfhe general secretary, said: "We are looking for some sort of moratorium on job losses while colleges have time to look at the picture again. In some cases colleges have gone back to the local learning and skills council and asked them to have another look. In some cases this seems to have led to the situation being improved."
Cuts specified by colleges which have responded to the survey include first aid, keep fit, life skills, access to higher education and programmes for students with learning disabilities. Other areas include basic skills courses which do not lead to recognised certification.
The union fears the final picture could be worse than these preliminary results.
A Natfhe spokesperson said: "Our officials have said that in many cases they are waiting for colleges to issue legal notices informing them of redundancies. Some respondents will have been reluctant to answer 'yes'
until they have it in writing."