Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The following are some frequently asked questions to assist in the understanding of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 ("FOIA"). These have been grouped together under the appropriate topic. However this list is by no means exhaustive:

Can I request personal data under FOIA?

The FOIA gives individuals the right to request information held by public authorities. It does not provide a right of access to personal information held about an individual. If someone is requesting their personal data this should be handled as a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Why have I been asked to clarify my request?

There maybe occasions were we cannot identify the information being requested from the details that may have been provided. In this case, we will seek clarification from the requester. The statutory timescale of 20 working days does not start until we have received this.

Will there be a charge?

Some requests may be chargeable although UCL will aim to publish information on the college website which can be accessed free of charge.

Section 12 of the FOIA provides an exemption (appropriate limit) were costs are estimated to exceed £450 for a public authority to comply with a request for information. Costs are calculated at £25 per hour and up to 18 hours for staff time to locate and retrieve the information. In these cases, UCL may refuse the request. We will ask the applicant to narrow the scope of the request, we may be able to provide the information free of charge because it would cost less than the appropriate limit to do so.

How will my request be dealt with?

As a requirement of the FOIA, UCL is obliged to comply with requests for information within 20 working days following receipt of a request.

In cases where we are considering the application of an exemption that is subject to a public interest test (known as a qualified exemption), the FOIA requires the university to reach its decision within such time that is reasonable in the circumstances.

Requests for information under the FIOA received by a member of staff via email or as a paper copy should be forwarded to the FOI Officer who will liaise with colleagues to provide the information.

Consideration will also be given in the future for a disclosure log where documents provided to previous requests will be published for viewing or downloading.

What are exemptions?

There are 23 exemptions from the right of access. Some information is exempt from disclosure and does not have to be provided.

There are two categories of exemptions:

Absolute exemptions.

In cases were the applicant has no legal right of access to the information at all, for instance information supplied by or relating to bodies dealing with security matters or information covered by parliamentary privilege. In other cases, for instance information available to the applicant by other means or personal information relating to the applicant, it may be possible to obtain the information by alternative means although not under FOI.

Qualified exemptions.

In cases where UCL has identified the possibility of applying an exemption, the university must consider the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

What are vexatious and repeated requests?

Where the university has previously complied with a request for information and subsequently receives an identical or similar request from the same individual, we are not obliged to comply with this request until a reasonable interval has elapsed between compliance with the first request and receipt of the current request. A request for information will be treated as vexatious where it is of a frivolous nature, if it is likely to cause distress, or if it is aimed at disrupting of the work, or harassing the organisation.

What is the public interest test?

The public interest test provides that a public authority must release information unless, 'in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information'. This requires the authority to make a judgement about the public interest.

What format will the information be supplied in?

When making a request you can state a preference of how you would like the information communicated to you. This could be in hard copy, or an electronic copy of the information. We will do our best to supply you with the information in this format. However, if this is not practical for us to do so, we will let you know.

How do I make a complaint?
If you are unhappy with our response to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision, you should write to:

Vice Provost (Operations)
University College London
1-19 Torrington Place
London WC1E 7HB

Please note, complaints and requests for internal review received more than two months after the initial decision will not be handled.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner's Office. You should do this within two months of our final decision.

Can I re use previously requested information?

You are free to use any information supplied for your own use, including for non-commercial research purposes. The information may also be used for the purposes of news reporting. However, any other type of re-use, for example by publishing or issuing copies to the public, will require the permission of the copyright owner.

This information is updated annually. If you have any queries, please email the FOI Officer at

Page last modified on 12 jun 14 10:28