SUGGEST A TOPIC
CONTACTING US
You can get in touch with us by phone or e-mail. You are welcome contact us anonymously if you wish.

01904 673880

Suggestions@AcademicFOI.Com

CONFIDENTIALITY

Everything 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.

FURTHER INFORMATION

The websites of the UK Information Commissioner and Scottish Information Commissioner both contain a wealth of details about freedom of information matters.

www.ico.gov.uk

www.itspublicknowledge.info

This website gives hundreds of examples of previous FOI requests and responses.

www.whatdotheyknow.com

Anyone 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.
We 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.
To 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 suggestions.
The following are the key things to bear in mind when drafting a request.
ACCUSATIONS
Freedom 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.
18 HOUR LIMIT

There 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.    

CATEGORIES

When 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 responses.

EASY QUESTIONS

Beware 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 other universities.