Finding information

Where do I start?

The University publishes a lot of its information through its website and the Freedom of Information Publication Scheme provides a guide to the information the University makes available as a matter of course, with details on where to find it.

Searching the website and using the Publication Scheme can help in a number of ways. As well as helping locate specific information such as policies, accounts, reports, statistics, minutes and details of services, they can provide contextual information which can be of assistance when framing or submitting requests.

How do I request information held by the University?

Firstly, check that the information you seek is not already publicly available by another means (e.g. through the University’s Publication Scheme or website).

  • Freedom of Information requests should be made in writing, give your name and an address for correspondence, and describe the information being sought. To avoid the risk of confusion, it is helpful if your request is clearly marked as a Freedom of Information or Environmental Information request.
  • Make the request as specific as possible. If a request is unclear or ranges too widely, you may be asked to clarify it. This could mean it takes longer to get the information. If too large, the request might also exceed the appropriate limit for requests and so incur possible refusal.
  • Provide as full a description as possible of the information you require.
  • If you have a preference as to the format you would like to receive the information in (e.g. paper, electronic), remember to make this clear in your request.

Having framed your request, submit it to the appropriate University department, section or officer. Contact details for departments and sections are available on the University website. If you remain unclear as to where to send a request or it concerns information held by more than one department/section, it can be submitted to the University Records Manager, Borthwick Institute, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD or foi@york.ac.uk.

What happens once my request has been received?

Having received a valid request and sought any necessary clarification, the University will respond as quickly as possible, and in any event within 20 working days. If your request will take more than a few days to answer you should receive an acknowledgement of your request. If a fee is payable you will receive notice before the 20 working day limit expires.

Will there be a charge?

Although most information requests will generally be met without charge, a charge may be made for direct costs: such as those associated with the provision of photocopying, postage, supply of disk etc. Where the information falls under the Publication Scheme and a charge for a particular document or service is specified, this will also apply. A fee may also be charged where significant work is involved in meeting a request for information. Notice of any charges will be made in advance of the request deadline and the dispatch of the information.

Under the Environmental Information Regulations there is no charge for access to information that is already made freely and publicly available, to any public registers or lists, or for examining the information in person (at a place chosen by the University). In other circumstances charging is at the discretion of the University. The University maintains a schedule of charges for environmental information requests. A separate charging regime also operates for subject access requests made under the Data Protection Act.

What is the impact of a public interest test?

Many of the FOI Act's exemptions are not absolute, but are qualified by a Public Interest Test. Where the University has to consider whether the disclosure of normally exempt material is in the public interest, it may take longer to consider a request. The University will always try to effect public interest tests within the deadline, although there is scope within the legislation for this to happen outside it. In any event, the test will occur within a reasonable time and the University will keep you informed of your enquiry's progress.

For public interest tests associated with exceptions under the Environmental Information Regulations, no such extension exists to the time limit on a public interest disclosure decision (which is normally 20 working days).

What if the information is refused?

Although it is the University’s policy to make as much of its information available as possible, it may sometimes have to withhold information where it falls under an exemption or exception. Where the University decides not to disclose the information requested, it will supply the reasons for its decision, explaining the FOI exemption(s)/EIR exception(s) that apply. Where a public interest test was involved, it will also explain its arguments as to why disclosure was not deemed to be in the public interest.

Information may be refused in part or in whole.

Where information has been refused applicants have the opportunity to appeal against the decision. The University’s review and complaints procedure gives further details of the appeals process and this document is automatically supplied with any refusal notice. If it is not possible to resolve the matter through this route, you can also complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Does the University have a Freedom of Information policy?

Yes. The University’s Freedom of Information Policy, its complaints procedures, Data Protection, Information Security and Records Management policies are all available through the above hyperlinks and on request from the Records Manager.

How do I complain?

If you are dissatisfied with your response, the handling of your enquiry, or wish to appeal a decision, the University’s complaints procedure has further details of how and where to lodge a complaint.

How do I access my own information?

If you're seeking information of which you are the subject, the Data Protection Act allows you to find out what personal information is held on you and to obtain a copy of this. This is known as the 'right of subject access'.

Because the right of subject access is granted under the Data Protection Act, and not the Freedom of Information legislation, slightly different rules apply to the processing of these requests. Further information on making a subject access request and a request form are provided on the Data Protection pages. Having submitted your subject access request, providing proof of identity and the necessary £10 subject access fee, the University will have 40 calendar days to send you a copy of the information about you that you've requested.

For certified information, such as official academic transcripts or replacement degree award certificates, separate mechanisms and charges apply. Consult the Registry Services' website for details.