Freedom of Information policy

Policy overview

The University of Essex is committed to full compliance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 ["the Act”] and recognises in full the rights and obligations established by the Act, particularly in relation to access to recorded information in its possession and the statutory ‘right to know'. This policy sets the framework by which the University meets its obligations.

Policy scope

The policy covers all information in the University's possession, irrespective of age, format or location.

In accordance with guidance issued by the Departmental for Constitutional Affairs, the policy does not cover the University of Essex Students' Union, which is not considered to be a public authority as defined by the Act and is not subject to the Act's provisions. The University's approach to the Act and the implications of its relationship with the Students' Union is laid out in the separate Policy Statement relating to the University of Essex Students' Union and the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations.

Freedom of Information Act responsibility

In accordance with the University's standard records management practice, the Governance Office has operational responsibility for the policy, while each Head of Department1  is responsible for ensuring compliance as appropriate. Senior management responsibility for freedom of information matters lies with the Registrar and Secretary.

Using information and guidance provided by the Governance Office, all University staff are expected to:

Each Head of Department also nominates an individual to join the Records Management Network. As part of this Network, the individual is responsible for liaising with the Information Manager on all matters relating to the Act. Where necessary, the nominee involves the Head of Department on freedom of information issues.

Individual requests for information

The University is committed to responding efficiently and lawfully to requests for information. Where a request is received by a specific member of University staff and falls within the scope of the role performed by that member of staff, s/he provides the response to the request. All requests outside this category are handled by the Information Manager in consultation with relevant colleagues. Specific procedures on how to access information are published electronically.

The Information Manager handles all requests where an exemption or fee may need to be applied. The final decision on the application of an exemption or the Fees and Charging Policy is made in consultation with the Registrar and Secretary and other senior staff as appropriate. An exemption or fee is only ever applied in accordance with the Act and/or relevant policy.

Freedom of information awareness

The Governance Office is responsible for ensuring that adequate and appropriate knowledge of the Act and the University's legal obligations is available across the University. The means for performing this function include this website, tailored training sessions for relevant groups, the new staff induction programme, ad hoc individual advice as appropriate, and the Records Management Network.

Publication Schemes

The University publishes electronically its Publication Scheme, along with six other Schemes relating to the University's subsidiary companies. Hard copies are available in the Albert Sloman Library. The Schemes are reviewed annually and updated as necessary.

Fees and charging for information

Fees and charges for information are managed in accordance with the University's Policy on Fees and Charging for Requested Information, which is published online and/or available from the Governance Office upon request.

For information included in the Freedom of Information Publication Schemes, any information that is available via the University website is free of charge. The first hard copy of Publication Scheme information is also available free of charge, although the University does reserve the right to make an administrative charge if necessary. Requests for multiple hard copies of Publication Scheme information are charged for "at cost”.

Complaints Procedure

The University takes seriously concerns about any aspect of its compliance with the Act. The complaints procedure which is published online and/or available from the Governance Office upon request.

Records Management Network

The Records Management Network is made up of representatives from all parts of the University. Through the Network, each part of the University is able to raise relevant freedom of information issues with the Governance Office, and the Information Manager is provided with a tool to enable communication as appropriate and the means to measure freedom of information compliance across the University.

The Network's specific terms of reference are:

  1. To raise the profile and understanding of effective records management throughout the University and to ensure that good practice is adopted;
  2. To ensure University-wide compliance with key pieces of legislation, such as the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000; and
  3. To ensure effective implementation of and adherence to the University's records management policies in all parts of the University.

Policy review

In accordance with the University's standard records management practice, the policy is reviewed every three years to ensure it meets effectively the University's operational and legal requirements.

Policy Agreed: Autumn 2005
Policy Effective from: October 2005
Policy Amended: September 2006
Policy due for renewal: Autumn 2008

1In this context, "Department" is defined in the widest sense and encompasses administrative sections, major centres and other significant units in the University.