A university academic sacked for serious misconduct has been denied access to about 12,000 work emails.

In a recent decision, the Privacy Commissioner said the man, who was not identified, was also seeking an apology and $100,000 compensation for what he claimed was an unfair dismissal.

On the day he was sacked access to his work email account was terminated, resulting in him losing contact with many of his colleagues, business partners and personal contacts.

He requested that the un-named university give him a computer hard drive containing all his work emails from a 12-month period of his employment.

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The request was refused on the basis the emails were university property, the
decision says.

While the university accepted that, under the Privacy Act, individuals had a right to access personal information held by an agency, it disputed that this applied because the majority of emails were work-related.

The university also argued that releasing the information would involve unwarranted disclosure of another person's affairs, and that many emails contained confidential information.

The commissioner concluded that the university's refusal was a reasonable one.

"We accepted that in order to process a request for such a large amount of personal information, and to determine what was and wasn't personal information, would be significantly burdensome to the university and would impair efficient administration," the decision says.

Furthermore, the university had made an offer to release some, approved emails to the academic rather than the entire hard drive. The man declined this offer.

"We advised him that he could provide the university with a specific list of the information he wanted to access, but we did not consider any further action by our office was necessary."

The man did not respond to this offer.