Police are investigating the theft of a briefcase containing
private information on almost 500 research staff from
tertiary institutions, including more than 140 staff from the
University of Otago.
The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) yesterday confirmed
the briefcase, which contained evidence portfolios submitted
by academic staff as part of the Performance-Based Research
Fund (PBRF) health round, was taken from a coffee shop on the
Auckland University of Technology (AUT) campus in Auckland on
The briefcase also contained information about 24 Otago
"TEC is treating this matter very seriously and every effort
is being made to recover the briefcase and its contents.
"We understand the sensitivity of this information for the
academic staff concerned and regret that this has happened,"
TEC deputy chief executive Dr Colin Webb said.
The briefcase was owned by a member of the TEC-convened panel
to assess researchportfolios submitted in health-related
The panel was meeting at the AUT's conference venue.
Police were immediately informed along with AUT security and
an investigation was launched.
"TEC has contacted the Privacy Commissioner, tertiary
education organisations and their individual staff members
who may be affected by this possible privacy breach," Dr Webb
Otago University research and enterprise deputy
vice-chancellor Prof Richard Blaikie said the university was
informed about the potential privacy breach yesterday
"After the TEC alerted the university to this regrettable
occurrence we swiftly acted to inform our affected staff.
"As this matter is under police investigation we will not be
commenting further," ProfBlaikie said.
Otago Polytechnic director of communications Mike Waddell
said it was taking the situation "very seriously" and had a
briefing with affected staff yesterday.
"We are unclear ... about what it means for the PBRF round
... and we really have just got to wait and see what the
outcome might be," he said
Universities New Zealand chairman Prof Pat Walsh said the
breach was of "great concern".