The right to request information
The right to request information under the Act extends to anyone who wishes to make an enquiry - they might be an employee or student of the University, an employee of some other organisation or any other member of the public. There is no limitation on who may make an enquiry - the law gives the right to minors and adults alike, and foreign nationals (even those based abroad) are equally entitled to request information.
We're not allowed to ask enquirers why they require the information they seek. Enquirers need not quote (or even be aware of) their rights under the Act to make a request for information. The only requirement the law places on an enquirer is that they must make their enquiry in writing for it to have the authority of a request made under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act.
Verbal enquiries (eg those made over the telephone) do not have the force of law. However, if you receive such an enquiry you should advise the enquirer how to make the request official, and send them the University Request for Information Form and guidance information to assist them in making the request.
When an individual makes a written request for information (this includes faxes and emails, as well as letters), we must provide them with that information, except in a handful of cases where exemptions apply (this issue is covered in Section 7). Hopefully, in most cases this will mean supplying them with instructions about how to find information, using the details provided in the University Publication Scheme. In some cases, however, an enquirer may ask for information that the University does not usually place in the public domain. In these cases, we will have to provide that information directly to them. The most important thing to remember is that now any letter/email/fax you receive that asks for information may match the definition of a Freedom of Information request and will thus carry the force of the law, and must be responded to in accordance with the law.
To assist you in dealing with the implications of the Freedom of Information Act, one member of staff in your department has been nominated as the Information Co-ordinator who will take responsibility for dealing with information requests in cases where you cannot personally provide the information requested. Your Director of Faculty/Department can inform you who your Information Coordinator is and this person should also be your first point of contact if you have any doubts or problems relating to a request. Should your Information Co-ordinator be unavailable, contact the Freedom of Information team on ext. 2151 who can also advise on such matters. These various staff can help you deal with information requests. In cases where you can answer a request without difficulty then you should continue to do so but a copy of your response must be sent to the firstname.lastname@example.org .
In all cases, the information (or ways of finding that information) must be provided within 20 workings days of receiving a written enquiry. This is a very short response time so, if you're in any doubt as to whether an enquiry may be a Freedom of Information enquiry, or you cannot respond from the records available to you, please contact your Information Co-ordinator immediately.