Freedom of Information Act

Policy and Guidelines

These web pages provide information for Goldsmiths staff on the College's internal policies designed to ensure compliance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (link opens a new browser window).

Those wishing to make a Freedom of Information Request may wish to go to Publication Scheme on the Goldsmiths external site.

What is the Freedom of Information Act?

The Freedom of Information Act (2000) came fully into force from 1 January 2005, and applies to public access to information held by or on behalf of public authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Because of their access to public funding, universities are designated as public authorities for the purposes of the Act. The information falling within the scope of the Act can be in the form of writing or pictures (whether in hard copy or electronic form), or an audio or video recording, and can have been produced before or after the Act came into force.

The Act enables any person anywhere in the world to make a Freedom of Information request, in writing, to a public authority, and normally the public authority must respond within 20 working days. “In writing” can be by either hard copy or electronic means. The person making the request does not have to say that they are exercising their rights under the Freedom of Information Act.

According to government guidance, Students' Unions are not considered public authorities for the purposes of the Act.

Implementation of the Freedom of Information Act is overseen nationally by the Information Commissioner's office, which has the same role in relation to Data Protection. The two Acts are designed to be complementary to each other.

[ Further information about the complementarity between the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Acts is available on the Information Law Homepage, and also on the Third Party Disclosures page of the Data Protection Policy (since requests for personal data from third parties are technically Freedom of Information requests, but certain key provisions of the Data Protection Act apply)]

[Full text of the Freedom of Information Act]

Publication Scheme

The Freedom of Information Act requires every public authority to publish a list of information which it makes available routinely: this is known as a Publication Scheme. In general, it is desirable for an institution to publish as much as possible of the material listed in its publication scheme on its website, as this reduces time spent on responding to individual requests.

The Goldsmiths  Publication Scheme is based on the Model Publication Scheme published by the Information Commissioner in 2013. It takes account of the Commissioner's guidelines on the application of the Model Scheme to the higher education sector (known as the "Definition Document".) 

[Download a summary paper on the implications of the Definition published by the Information Commissioner for the university sector in 2013: Summary paper on Publication Scheme requirements 2013

Introduction to Exemptions

A series of 23 exemptions applies to Freedom of Information requests, but about two-thirds of these either could never apply to Goldsmiths College, or would do so only in very rare circumstances.

For the College, the most important possible exemptions are:

  • Information reasonably accessible to the applicant by other means, eg as part of the College's Publication Scheme.
  • Information which falls within the scope of the Data Protection Act: this is required to be dealt with under Data Protection, not Freedom of Information, procedures: see the College's Data Protection Policy and Guidelines web pages.
  • Information which the College regards as commercially sensitive

Some exemptions are covered by the Public Interest Test, which means that the information must be revealed if to do so is in the public interest.

[Further information about specific exemptions and the Public Interest Test]

[Information for staff on dealing with requests]

From 1 September 2005, the Policy on the Categorisation of Committee Business was introduced. This reflects the requirements of the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

The Code of Practice under Section 45 of the Freedom of Information Act prescribes a Complaints Procedure for information requestors.  A Complaints procedure for Freedom of Information Requests and Publication Schemes  was approved by Council in March 2010, which in March 2013 was extended to include complaints related to requests under the Environmental Information Regulations (which are very similar to Freedom of Information Requests).



Content last modified: 02 Sep 2013

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