Policy statement relating to the University of Essex Students' Union and the Freedom of Information Act/Environmental Information Regulations

September 2006


As a public authority, the Freedom of Information Act (“the Act”) and the Environmental Information Regulations (“the EIR”) place specific legal obligations on the University of Essex (“the University”). In accordance with guidance issued by the Department for Constitutional Affairs, this policy statement clarifies the University's relationship with the University of Essex Students' Union (“the Union”) in relation to the obligations imposed by the Act and the EIR.

The relationship between the University of Essex and the University of Essex Students' Union

All University of Essex students are automatically members of the Union. While the University has considerable links with the Union, including specific responsibilities under the Union's constitution and under the Education Act 1994, the Union itself is considered to be an unincorporated association of members, and as such, is a separate legal entity.

The implications of the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations

Within the terms of the FOI Act and/or the EIR, even where staff and accommodation may be shared with the University, the Union is not defined as a “public authority” and is not subject to any legal requirements placed on public authorities by the Act and/or the EIR. As such, records and information in the Union's possession are not subject to the Act and/or the EIR, and are not required to be made available for disclosure under the Act and/or the EIR. Similarly, information belonging to the Union which is stored on the premises or systems of the University is deemed to be held by the University on behalf of the Union, and is not subject to the Act.

Where possible, however, the Union recognises its close relationship with the University and is committed to the principles of Freedom of Information legislation. Individuals wishing to access specific information held by the Union are required to put the request in writing to the President of the Students' Union. The Union aims to be as open as possible, but in all cases, reserves the right to refuse to disclose requested information. Where the University receives a request for information that refers wholly or in part to the Union, the University will request that the applicant submit a separate request to the Union as set out above for access to information held by the Union.

All records and information disclosed to the University by the Union and that remain in the University's possession are covered by the Act and the EIR, and are subject to disclosure in accordance with the relevant University policies and related legal obligations.

The University consults with the Union in all cases where a request for information may involve the disclosure of information which was provided to the University by the Union, or where the disclosure may affect the commercial interests of the Union. In these cases, the ultimate responsibility for deciding whether or not to release such information rests with the University.

Policy Agreed: Summer 2006
Policy Effective from:
October 2006
Policy due for renewal: Summer 2009