Freedom of Information Requests
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 on the Information Commissioner’s Office website. Coventry University is a public authority for the purposes of the FOIA.
The FOIA also applies to companies which are wholly owned by a public authority and therefore applies to all companies which are wholly owned by Coventry University. If you are unclear as to whether Coventry University wholly owns any company please contact us for more details.
What information is covered by the FOIA?
The FOIA covers all recorded information held by a public authority. It is not limited to official documents and covers thing like drafts, emails, notes, recordings of telephone conversations and CCTV recordings.
It is however, limited in scope to information which is in a recorded form and it does not cover information which has not been recorded.
If you are asking for environmental information, we will consider this under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and not the FOIA.
If you request relates to personal information about you, we will consider this under the Data Protection Act 2018.
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 it has not been provided by referring to one or more of the exemptions in the Act (e.g. that disclosure would damage commercial interests, or prejudice health and safety).
You can find out more about exemptions on the Information Commissioner’s Office website.
If you are not satisfied with the response, you can request the University to carry out an internal review, and if you are still not satisfied with the response you receive, you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office.
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 would like to make a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 that is not available through the publication scheme, you can do so by one of the following options.
- You can write to us at the address below:
Information Governance Unit
Alan Berry Building
- Alternatively, please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any queries or require any assistance of advice in relation to a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
If you wish to make a request for information please remember the following points:
- 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 legislation;
- the University will aim to respond to your request within the legal timeframe of 20 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 arrangements or damage a party’s commercial interests. When this is the case, we will explain our reasons for withholding information and make reference to one or more of the exemptions under the Act.
Where the University is unable to comply with a request as it does not hold the requested information but believes another public authority does hold the requested information we will advise you of this and may either encourage you to redirect your request accordingly or if we believe that the best way to deal with your request is to transfer it to the public authority which we believes holds the requested information then we may choose to transfer the request.
Should you be dissatisfied with the manner in which we have handled your request under the FOIA then you can make a complaint to the University direct to the University’s Data Protection Officer via email.