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Freedom of Information

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Staff Guidelines

Introduction

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) which came into force on the 1 January 2005. Its aim is to promote greater openness and accountability within the public sector. It imposes a duty on public authorities, like University College London (UCL) to provide two related rights of access.  These are: 

  • To inform the applicant whether or not the information is held  
  • If the information is held, to communicate it to the applicant

Anyone can make a request in writing for recorded information held by or on behalf of UCL, and we must comply promptly and in any case within 20 working days.  Unless one of 23 exemptions applies.

The dedicated route for information requests are by email to: foi@ucl.ac.uk.

Further information can be found within UCL's Publication Scheme

Roles and Responsibilities

The Freedom of Information Officer has operational responsibility for Freedom of Information at UCL, including logging and handling requests.

UCL has a statutory duty to provide information requested under the Act to which the applicant is entitled.  Therefore staff who receive non-routine requests for information, must ensure that Legal Services is notified without delay.

Request handling process

When asked by Legal Services to provide information, all staff must do so promptly within ten working days.  Staff involved should advise Legal Services of the estimated effort of determining whether the information is held, and of retrieving it. 

Requests that cost less than the appropriate limit, as defined in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 will be processed free of charge.  The appropriate limit is £450.  This is based on an hourly rate of £25, the equivalent of a cumulative effort of two and a half working days.

Where this is not feasible, or the cost of locating and retrieving information is likely to exceed £450, staff must inform Legal Services promptly, and provide details. In calculating the cost of a request, the only activities that may be taken into account are:

  • determining whether UCL holds the information
  • locating it
  • retrieving it
  • extracting it (not including redaction).

Time taken to do the following may not be taken into account:

  • consider exemptions
  • seek and obtain legal advice
  • consider whether a request is vexatious
  • obtain authorisation to provide the information
  • calculate fees.
Complaints handling process

In accordance with the Code of Practice issued under Section 45 of the Act, any written reply from the applicant expressing dissatisfaction with UCL’s response to a request will be treated as a complaint. This includes appeals against decisions to withhold information. 

The Vice Provost (Operations) is responsible for handling complaints. Where the initial decision is upheld, the applicant will be informed of his or her right to apply to the Information Commissioner, and given details of how to do this.

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. Where the applicant is requesting his or her own personal data, the request will be handled as a subject access request under section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998.

All requests for access to Personal Data should be referred to the UCL Data Protection Officer. Email: data-protection@ucl.ac.uk.