What are my rights under FOIA and who can I request information from?
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) provides the general public with the right of access to recorded information held by public authorities. Public authorities as defined in the Act include central government departments, local government, the police, the National Health Service, and schools, colleges and universities. If you are not sure whether or not the body you wish to request information from is a public authority, a full list of organisations covered by the Act is available at http://www.ico.org.uk.
How can I obtain information?
The Act provides this right of access in two ways. Firstly, each public authority is required to maintain a publication scheme, which lists all the classes of information an authority voluntarily makes public, describes how this information is made available and gives details of any charges made. You may find that the public authority already lists the information you wish to request in its publication scheme. Many authorities publish their scheme on their web site, and may include links to the information listed in the scheme. Consulting the publication scheme should be your first step if you want to obtain information from a public authority.
If the information you want is not available via the publication scheme, you can use the second provision of the Act, the right of individual access. You must make a request in writing (email is acceptable) and give your name and address. You do not have to say why you want the information. It will speed up the process if you are as clear and specific as possible about the information you want.
Public authorities are required to respond to requests within 20 working days. The response should confirm or deny whether the information you requested is held, and either provide the information or explain why it has not been provided, quoting one or more of the exemptions in the Act (eg that disclosure would damage commercial interests, or prejudice health and safety). If you are not satisfied with the response, you can use the authority's internal complaints procedure, and if you are still not satisfied after the authority's internal procedures are exhausted, you may apply to the Information Commissioner for a review.
What will it cost?
The University will not normally make any charges for providing information to you. However, in accordance with the Act, the University shall not be obliged to provide information where the cost of compliance would exceed the cost limit set by the Act.
The duty to advise and assist
Under the Act, public authorities have a duty to advise and assist those requesting information. This duty might include, for example, helping individuals to focus their request more clearly so that they obtain the information they want for the least possible cost, or directing requesters to other information sources if needed.
What format can I request information in?
You can express a preference regarding the format you would like to receive the information in. This includes asking for information in Braille, audio format or in another language. However, the public authority may take into account the cost of supplying the information in your preferred format. This should be discussed with the individual authority.
Request for Information
If you wish to make a request for information that is not available through the publication scheme please write to;
Legal Services – Freedom of Information
If you wish to make a request for information please remember that
- You should describe the information you need as clearly as possible – if your request is too broad or unclear, we may need to ask you to be more specific
- You should include your name and an address for a response
- The Freedom of Information Act does not give a right of access to personal information about yourself – that is covered under data protection
- The University will aim to respond to your request within twenty working days. We are not obliged to respond to vexatious or repeated requests
- You might not always receive the information you request as there are sometimes valid reasons why some kinds of information will be withheld, such as if its release would prejudice health and safety or damage commercial interests. When this is the case, we will explain our reasons for withholding information