can get in touch with us by phone or
e-mail. You are welcome contact us anonymously if you
you discuss with us is in complete confidence. Your personal details
will never be disclosed by us to any third party, university
or other higher education organisation.
websites of the UK Information Commissioner
and Scottish Information Commissioner both contain a wealth of details about freedom of information
gives hundreds of examples of previous
FOI requests and responses.
is welcome to submit a suggestion for a topic worthy of
investigation. You can simply describe the issue or suggest
some questions. It can either be aimed at a
specific institution or intended for all 145 institutions. It
is always helpful for us to know something about the
background to your suggestion and what you think could be
usefully brought out in the subsequent report.
are prepared to consider any topic relevant to universities.
The obvious ones are to do with internal regulations, human
resources, expenditures, decision-making and re-organisations.
More innovative suggestions would be welcome. Freedom of
Information is relatively recent legislation and the uses of
e-mails, websites, analysis software and new technology are
developing all the time. Ideas for new ways in which our
project could develop in the years ahead would be useful.
preserve confidentiality we do not send an auto response
confirming receipt. Rest assured that all suggestions are
promptly read and considered. We are limited by how many
requests we can submit in any given period. It is not the time
taken to submit requests that is the limiting factor but the
considerably greater time it takes to chase up full responses
and analyse the results. We may combine suggestions and will
prioritise topics for which we have received multiple
following are the key things to bear in mind when drafting a
of Information does not allow accusations to be included
within requests. You might know that someone had stolen money
but you are not allowed to put that in a request. Instead you
could ask for copies of relevant accounts, details of audits
and information about how expenditures are authorised.
is an 18 hour limit on how long a university can spend
answering a request. Some universities appear to know where
everything is and make extensive use of computers. Others
describe how they depend on unstructured manual filing systems
where even the simplest question involves weeks of work. Think
through each of the steps likely to be involved in responding
to the request and don't ask for anything that you think would
take more than perhaps a full day of work to prepare. Work out
which questions are the most important. If a university say
the request will take too long to answer in full we can then
opt for the priority answers.
suggesting a request think through how the responses could be
categorised. It may be easier to ask for a statistic. League
tables can then be readily assembled from the results. There
is however nothing wrong with us asking each university to
describe how they handle an issue and publishing the 145
of asking questions that are too easy to answer. If you asked
a university whether they were energy efficient they would
most probably answer yes. Instead you could ask how much they
spent each year on gas and electricity plus the number of full
time equivalent staff and students. From that information an
energy cost per head could be worked out and compared with