Independent inquiry to be launched into University of East Anglia data leak

The Ziggurat buildings at the University of East Anglia. Picture: Simon Finlay

The Ziggurat buildings at the University of East Anglia. Picture: Simon Finlay - Credit: Archant Norfolk

An independent inquiry will be launched into how a Norwich university accidentally emailed confidential details about students to hundreds of other undergraduates.

The University of East Anglia (UEA) mistakenly sent out a spreadsheet containing a list of reasons why 42 students had requests for extensions accepted, alongside their full names, to 298 American Studies students earlier this month.

The list contained personal and sensitive reasons, and students have shared their anger and humiliation over the leak, with one saying they 'felt sick' when they saw the email.

UEA has 'apologised unreservedly' and on Tuesday vice-chancellor Prof David Richardson emailed students to say the UEA Council, the university's governing body, had 'endorsed the commissioning of an independent inquiry'.

MORE: UEA leak sensitive student data in mass email

He said it would be conducted by the university's auditors, PWC, which will begin its work shortly and aim to complete it by the end of July.

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In a statement, Prof Richardson said: 'This clearly should not have happened and we apologise unreservedly for the distress it has caused.

'We immediately contacted all the affected students to apologise, explain the situation and offer full support, which we will continue to do for as long as it is needed.

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'The inquiry will extend beyond the specific incident itself and cover areas such as the institution's systems, culture and management.

'Both the executive team and the council are treating this issue extremely seriously and the timetable in place means that outcomes of the investigation can be implemented by the beginning of the 2017/18 academic year.'

He reiterated his 'sincere apologies to anyone affected' and said the university would take all steps necessary to improve its data handling processes.

The spreadsheet was received by students in the morning of Friday, June 16, and was sent from a UEA member of staff's university email address.

A second email was sent after, from the same account, which said: 'You may have erroneously received an email with a spreadsheet attachment.

'Could you please delete this without opening/reading.'

• Do you have an education story or have you been affected by the leak? Let us know by emailing our education correspondent Lauren Cope on

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