Union leaders appealed to David Blunkett yesterday to remove a college principal suspended in response to a highly critical inspection report.
Chris Chapman, principal of Basildon College in Essex, was suspended on Monday after funding chiefs ordered an investigation into alleged mismanagement.
The National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education says staff have faced a "growing culture of intimidation" at the college.
Union leaders fear up to one-third of the college's 120 lecturers face redundancy as part of a restructuring plan that will bring in a new grade of "learning facilitators" to replace some lecturing staff.
The Further Education Funding Council took action after the publication of an "extremely poor" inspection report last week. Officials said the college's financial position was deteriorating and that the council had received complaints about college management.
David Melville, the council's chief executive, said: "This is the third worst inspection report ever and represents a decline in standards of teaching since the college's previous inspection.
"The governors and managers of Basildon College have only recently begun to address the real problems of low levels of retention and achievement with support from the standards fund," he said.
John Gould, the acting principal, said Mr Chapman had the full support of the governors and rejected the union's claims.Reuse content