Freedom of Information guidelines for staff

Freedom of Information Act guidelines

The Freedom of Information, (FOI) Act came fully into force on 1 January 2005.The UCL FOI Publication Scheme details the information that UCL wishes to readily publish on its WebPages.

This Act gives the public general rights of access to recorded information held by public authorities. The definition of a "public authority" is that the authority is in receipt of government funding. As an H.E.I. UCL is in receipt of government funding and, therefore, must comply with the Act.

The request can be made to any of UCL’s employees (in their official capacity) and from the moment that the request is received there is a 20 working days time limit for UCL to provide the information or respond giving details of why the information is not available. Requests can be made from anywhere in the world, by letter, fax, or email. Individuals making oral requests should be advised to put these in writing to the UCL FOI Officer.


Members of UCL Staff receiving a request for information from a member of the public should refer the request immediately to their Department’s FOI Coordinator

Under the FOI Act the following information need not be published:

  • Information intended for future publication
  • Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities
  • Audit functions
  • Information whose disclosure might prejudice the physical or mental health or safety of any individual
  • Personal information, subject to the Data Protection Act
  • Commercial interests.

Data Protection Act 1998

Personal Information which identifies living individuals is subject to the Data Protection Act, and can be exempted from the Freedom of Information Act. All requests for access to Personal Data should be referred to the UCL FOI Officer, who is also the Data Protection Officer. Email:

Responsibilities of Heads of Department

With the above provisions in mind Heads of Department are asked to ensure that:

  • Their staff are aware of the FOI Act, its requirements and the UCL procedures for responding to requests, which are also available within the UCL Publication Scheme
  • They appoint a member of their staff as a FOI Co-ordinator for their department, and direct that all requests for information are passed on to that person.
  • If the FOI Co-ordinator is unable to provide or obtain the information requested the request is passed promptly to the UCL FOI Officer.
  • The department's WebPages contain the most up-to-date and accurate information about the department, and links from the UCL Publication Scheme to the department’s site are maintained.
  • The WebPages are regularly up-dated and that "archive" copies are retained to verify when any changes were made.
  • The administration records of their department are in good order, in order to facilitate prompt responses to requests for information.

Responsibilities of a Departmental FOI Coordinator

As your department’s FOI Coordinator it is essential that you familiarise yourself with the following procedures for compliance with the FOI Act and the UCL Policy:

On receipt of a request:

Decide if the information is already available on UCL WebPages. If so, direct the requester to these.

If the information cannot be found on UCL WebPages:

Decide if you have the information readily available

If "Yes", respond to the request immediately, or

If "No", refer the request to the UCL FOI Officer immediately.

If you feel that the request is of a sensitive nature or could be defamatory to UCL please advise the FOI Officer of this.

If a request is received that falls into one of the exempted categories detailed above, the request should be passed immediately by the Departmental FOI Co-ordinator to the UCL FOI Officer who will reply accordingly to the enquirer.

The FOI Officer will then respond to the person requesting the information.

The FOI Officer is based within Legal Services, Finance Division, 6th Floor, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HB.  Email:

In addition you should:

  • Ensure the department's WebPages contain the most up-to-date and accurate information about the department, and links from the UCL Publication Scheme to the department’s site are maintained.
  • Put in place a system for monitoring requests received, how they have been dealt with, and the responses made.
  • Ensure that your department’s administrative records are easily accessible, in order to fulfil requests for information quickly.

Please remember that it is a legal requirement that UCL responds to requests within 20 working days, DO NOT delay requests for information.

FOI Officer

November 2008

Page last modified on 11 jun 14 14:51