A group of students duped Press Association with a fake story about finishing an essay in a nightclub.
The story was widely published on a variety of news websites and based on a video featuring Lawrence Kemp, 21, a second year business management student at the University of Gloucestershire.
Footage filmed by his friend, film student Danny Cotter, 22, claimed to show Kemp trying to write the essay while others partied around him before eventually tempting him to get involved.
A University of Gloucestershire spokesman told the Press Association the video was produced for an assignment, in which the students were encouraged to make a video which went viral.
She said the students obtained permission from the nightclub to go in and film the video, and that Kemp was “acting” throughout, adding: “Everything about it was fake.”
Before reporting the story on Tuesday, the Press Association spoke to both Kemp and Cotter.
Both insisted the events in the video were accurate and gave detailed accounts of what it purported to show, with Kemp subsequently sending a photo of himself with a results paper, claiming he had received a first for the project.
After it emerged the video was staged, Mike Parker, senior lecturer in film production, told BBC Bristol: “We advised them that they needed to out it at some point – build the news up as big as they could and then out it, because that would show their creative skills in terms of creating virals.”
However, the university spokesman denied that it knew the students had subsequently misled journalists about the events, and when asked if it condemned such action, responded: “Yes.”
He added: “As soon as the university became aware that a creative assignment had become the subject of a news story, we contacted media outlets to ensure they understood that this was not a genuine event.
“We certainly don’t condone misleading the media but we would point out that a simple phone call to the university would have cleared this matter up immediately.”
However, when asked if it would usually release information about the studies of individual students, the university confirmed that it would not.
Peter Clifton, editor-in-chief at PA, said: “The Press Association goes to great lengths to ensure the accuracy of the content it produces.
“This is just as relevant with social media, and PA has detailed procedures to verify content we find on Twitter and Facebook.
“On this occasion we had lengthy written exchanges with both the student Lawrence Kemp and his colleague Danny Cotter, who had provided the video in the nightclub.
“Under detailed questioning, Mr Kemp maintained that the story was accurate, and this continued when he gave us further quotes to confirm his delight at getting a first for the work. He also provided a picture of his exam result. Mr Cotter’s account corroborated the story.
“We are confident that our checking procedures are as rigorous as any in the media business, but if two people separately maintain, at length, that something is correct when it isn’t, it highlights what a challenging area this is.”