Freedom of Information

Information for Staff

Information for Staff

FOI Basics

The Freedom of Information Act (FOI) gives individuals a general right of access to recorded information that is 'held' by public authorities and places a duty on these bodies to be open and accountable to the public.

As a public body, the University must respond to any FOI requests.

FOI requests

An FOI request is a request for recorded information that is held by the University.  

Recorded information includes information that the University holds in permanent form, such as computerised systems (PCs, emails) and printed documents or hand-written notes.

This also includes information taken elsewhere to work on. It's treated the same way as if it were 'held' within a University office.

The applicant needs to provide a name and address along with their request. Requests can be made via post, email or fax, and they can come from anyone and from anywhere in the world. The applicant does not have to mention the Act or explain why they want the information.

FOI responses

We must respond to a request within 20 working days.

Once delivered to the University, or emailed to a member of staff the 20 working day countdown begins the day after.

This can be an issue if the FOI request is emailed to a member of staff who is on holiday or off sick. The Information Commissioner takes the view that where an automated out of office message provides instructions to an applicant on how to re-direct their message, the request will not have been received by the University until it is re-sent to the alternative contact.

If staff are on holiday or absent due to sickness, they can add the following to a standard out of office email message:

"If your enquiry is a Freedom of Information request please re-direct your enquiry to rec-man@ncl.ac.uk".

Handling Requests

The Information Security Team in NUIT takes responsibility for coordinating and responding to FOI requests. However, any member of staff who holds information that has been requested may be asked to provide that information and assist with producing the response.

FOI establishes a general right of access to all of the University's recorded information  - so in most cases the information will be disclosed. 

If it isn’t clear exactly what information the requester is asking for, then we are expected to get in touch with them and ask them to clarify. In such cases the '20 working day clock' does not start until the clarification is received.

It is a criminal offence to destroy, obscure or erase material in an attempt to deliberately prevent disclosure when a valid FOI request has been received.

FOI exemptions

There are a number of exemptions within FOI that may prevent us from releasing certain information, for example:

  • personal information
  • commercially-sensitive information
  • information that was provided to us in confidence

If you have any specific queries, just contact us.