Freedom of Information Act & Environmental Information Regulations Policy
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) are laws passed to do two things:
- Ensure public authorities proactively publish certain information about how they operate.
- Allow members of the public the right to request information from public authorities.
For the purposes of the legislation, the University of Liverpool is a public authority.
The legislation was created to promote better openness and transparency around the decisions and actions taken by public authorities, and to increase public trust.
Both laws allow public access to any recorded information held by a public authority. Recorded information includes printed documents, emails, photos, CCTV, and information held in other formats.
All requests must be answered within 20 working days, subject to exemptions and limits placed on time and cost of response.
1. Purpose & scope
This policy ensures that the provisions of the FOIA and EIR are adhered to and that:
- Routinely published information about the University is made available to the public and indexed through the Publication Scheme.
- Information not included in the Publication Scheme is available on request and is dealt with promptly.
- Advice and assistance are provided to anyone seeking information about the University.
- If information is covered by an exemption, consideration is given to whether it should be released.
- Staff are aware of how FOIA and EIR apply to their day-to-day work.
All information held by the University of Liverpool is covered by the right of access. The legislation entitles individuals to access information, not to documents per se. This Policy applies to:
- All recorded information held and processed by the University. This includes information created by the University or its staff in the course of University business stored in any system or format, electronic or manual.
- All approved users of University records; all members of staff, as well as individuals conducting work at or for the University and/or its subsidiaries with access to University information (such as temporary, honorary, casual, volunteers, agency workers, students employed by the University, etc.).
- Information held by third parties where that information is a record of services provided to the University.
- All locations in which University records are held, including off-campus locations.
The University has adopted the Information Commissioner’s Model Application Scheme for universities. The University Publication Scheme is maintained by Legal & Governance and reviewed annually. Individual departments are responsible for ensuring that information posted elsewhere on the website is kept up to date, so that the Scheme is a guide to information about the University.
2. Responsibilities under this Policy
The University is responsible for establishing policies and procedures and providing appropriate training to comply with the requirements of FOIA and EIR.
For the purposes of the Acts, the Vice-Chancellor is the nominated “qualified person”. The Vice-Chancellor is responsible for considering whether a section 36 exemption applies to any information that would prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs. If the Vice-Chancellor is unavailable or the request concerns the Vice-Chancellor, the University Secretary/Director of Legal & Governance will determine whether the exemption applies to the requested information. This responsibility cannot be delegated to anyone other than the Vice-Chancellor or University Secretary/Director of Legal & Governance.
2.2 Information Governance Committee
Information Governance Committee is responsible for the development, internal monitoring, and review of the University’s Freedom of Information Policy. The Information Governance Committee reports to the Senior Leadership Team, referring matters to Audit Committee as appropriate.
2.3 Legal & Governance
The Legal & Governance Team is responsible for logging, coordinating, and monitoring the University’s response to FOIA and EIR requests. This duty includes overseeing internal review requests and complaints made to the Information Commissioner’s Office. The Legal & Governance Team is also responsible for providing procedures, guidance, and training to staff across the University about the legislation. This includes providing appropriate advice on exemptions and public interest tests, where necessary.
2.4 Heads of Department, School, Faculty, and Central Professional Services
Heads of Department, School, Faculty, and Central Professional Service departments are responsible for ensuring that their department complies with the requirements of the legislation and this Policy. This includes supporting FOI Coordinators to provide information promptly, to ensure the University meets the statutory time limit for responding to the request.
2.5 FOI Coordinators
FOI Coordinators are responsible for organising how their department’s response to the requests received. This includes promptly gathering information and, where appropriate, raising questions regarding disclosure or exemptions with the Legal & Governance Team. A list of FOI Coordinators is held on the Legal & Governance intranet site.
2.6 Individual Members of Staff
FOIA or EIR requests are generally received directly by Legal & Governance. However, they can be made to the University through any department. All staff must know what to do if they receive a request and act quickly so a response is not delayed.
- Requests must be forwarded immediately on receipt to the Legal & Governance Team.
- Requests will often not state they are a FOIA or EIR request specifically.
- If you are unsure whether the correspondence you have received is an FOI or EIR request, send it to the Legal & Governance Team anyway for assessment.
The spirit of the legislation is for the University to be as open and transparent as possible. Most responses are provided free of charge via email.
Where information is requested in other forms, such as on CD or in physical documents, the University may impose an appropriate charge to reimburse the cost of providing information. Any charges will be notified to the requester. Payment must be made before the information is disclosed.
A requester unhappy with the outcome of their request is entitled to an internal review by the University. This review must be requested within 40 working days of receiving the University’s initial disclosure. An internal review must be carried out by staff with appropriate seniority not involved in the original request. All requests for internal review must be sent to the Legal & Governance Team in the first instance.
An individual who is unhappy with the outcome of an internal review may make an appeal and apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the Information Commissioner cannot review a decision unless the applicant has exhausted the complaints and review procedure provided by the University. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF. Telephone: 0303 123 1113 www.ico.gov.uk. There is no charge for making an appeal.
5. Policy compliance
Failure to comply with this Policy and associated guidance in protecting University information (or that entrusted to us by a third party) puts the University at risk of reputational damage as well as a breach of the legal and regulatory requirements. It may also lead to disciplinary action under the relevant Disciplinary Policy (staff or student) or misconduct investigation in accordance with the relevant Misconduct Policy.
Mishandling requests for University information is a breach of the law and could lead to a disciplinary investigation. All staff should be aware that is a criminal offence to intentionally conceal, destroy or alter information that is the subject of FOIA or EIR requests to prevent it from being released.
For advice about the legislation, visit the staff intranet pages for guidance and processes. These pages will be updated periodically with FAQs and other documents. Please contact the Freedom of Information Officer if you have specific questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Version 3.0: Reviewed 20 January 2022
Page last updated: 22 June 2022