A UNIVERSITY has apologised after a light-hearted attempt at humour on social media backfired.

Essex University came under fire for a number of tweets in which it called other higher education institutions “boring”.

In one tweet, it quoted a message from Leeds Beckett in which it compared it to a “leaky bucket”.

Essex University has now issued an apology to Leeds Beckett, Suffolk University and University of East Anglia for the remarks.

It said: “We’re sorry. @leedsbeckett @uniofeastanglia @UniofSuffolk we’ve huge respect for you all.

“We made what we thought were some humorous tweets last week. We now recognise we got it wrong.

“This really wasn’t an attempt to undermine HE in the UK and we apologise to anyone we offended.”

Essex University started the social media furore late last week in an apparent bid to get more people to apply to the university through clearing following A Level results day.

But the move backfired when Twitter users called out the messages.

In one case Leeds University appeared to intervene on its neighbour Leeds Beckett’s behalf when it replied to Essex University.

Katie Beswick said on Twitter: “It is also really undignified and embarrassing. I’d be ashamed if my teenage child acted that way, let alone a university.

“It just seems really strange. Cleary there are deep issues at Essex.”

Twitter user David Petts said: “Poor attitude from a leading university - HE should be better than this kind of playground level stuff.

“We are all on the same side.”

In another of the tweets, Essex posted a picture of a car leaving a motorway junction with the message: “Straight on for boring, right for Essex.”

An Essex University spokesman said he would not be commenting further on the incident.

The uni is set to welcome its biggest ever intake next month, with 6,000 students setting up home across its campuses.

No action is being taken against the staff member who posted the tweets.