UNIVERSITY staff have launched an investigation to find out how a fake email claiming the establishment was closing down next week was distributed to students.

The message was sent by someone posing as former vice-chancellor of the University of Southampton Sir Christopher Snowden.

Officials from the university have stressed that the email was not sent by the vice-chancellor and the information it contains was “completely false and should be disregarded”.

The email, which had the subject line ‘URGENT VICE-CHANCELLOR MESSAGE’, claimed Sir Christopher, who left the senior role last year, had just had a phone call with prime minister Boris Johnson.

It went on to say: “Unfortunately due to budget constraints and the pressure Brexit is placing on the economy the government has taken the decision to close six universities. With the University of Southampton being the first to close with immediate effect.”

The fake correspondence also said all students would be transferred to Solent University for the next semester and rehoused.

Following widespread social media sharing of the email, a spokesperson for the University of Southampton told the Daily Echo they were “treating the matter seriously”.

A statement from a University of Southampton spokesperson said: “The University of Southampton is aware of an email circulated to students pretending to be from the vice-chancellor and relating to the University.

“We want to reassure all of our students that this email is fake. It was not sent by the vice-chancellor and did not come from his personal account.

“The information it contains is completely false and should be disregarded. The University is open and operating as normal.

“The University is treating the matter seriously.

“Our iSolutions team are working to track down the source of this e-mail and appropriate action will be taken.”

Sir Christopher was announced as the vice-chancellor of the university in March 2015 following the retirement of Don Nutbeam.

He officially took over in October of the same year and his time in the role had its controversies, primarily over his pay while a round of redundancies were carried out.

He retired in March last year and was replaced by Mark Smith.