Nearly 2,000 workers at Aberystwyth University received an email on Christmas Eve telling them their contracts were about to end.
The university says the erroneous message was the result of a technical fault.
“A software glitch which occurred on Friday, 24 December 2010 resulted in 1,991 members of staff receiving an automatically generated email informing them that their contracts were coming to an end and that access to email would cease on 31 December 2010,” a spokesperson for the university told BBC News.
A second email explaining the fault was sent three hours later, the spokesman said.
It is not the first software error to have such cruel consequences. In 2009, for example, a number of Visa prepaid credit card holders found that a $23,148,855,308,184,500 charge had been added to their bills, thanks to a "temporary programming error".
More recently, it emerged that thousands of Delhi residents living below the poverty line were denied state rations due to a software error at the local Food and Supply department.