A HAMPSHIRE university has been accused of "snooping" on ex students to find out how much they earn.

An investigation by a national newspaper and a probe by the Information Commissioner's Office - backed by Theresa May - showed that Southampton University sent 497,916 records to wealth screening firms in a bid to target the richest for donations.

Data was then used to rank the students in order of wealth - and whether they were likely to leave money to the university.

But a spokesperson for the university said they acted legally and the activity stopped in 2013.

They said: "This activity was used by us between 2010-2013 to closely align our fundraising activity with the interests and means of our alumni and supporters. No such activity has taken place since.

"The figure quoted of 497,917 represented the total number of records over a three year period. The actual number of individual records shared was 197,000 but some records were re-sent each time an activity occurred.

"This activity was fully compliant with the law and disclosed on our websites at the time".

They added that the university has signed up to the Fundraising Regulatory Code of Practise and "deeply values the relationship between the University and its alumni community", that the ex students would have been made aware of activities and that they "did not require consent, and transparency was provided through the publication of our disclosure policy on the University and Alumni & Development websites".

According to reports three quarters of British universities have used wealth screening firms over the past twenty years.

It comes just days after the university was criticised by unions for advertising for a chauffeur at the same time as announcing 75 job cuts.

And just this week the Daily Echo has revealed the same institution is paying £100,000 a year to keep scaffolding on a derelict tower block.