An introduction to the Freedom of Information Act
The Freedom of Information Act, which received royal assent in November 2000, is intended to ensure a greater degree of openness and accountability amongst public authorities. The Act achieves this intention by establishing a general right of access to the information held by public authorities. The Act applies to, amongst others, all further and higher education institutions including St George's University of London (SGUL). This document explains how SGUL is meeting its obligations under the Act.
The Act requires the institution to adopt and maintain a Model Publication Scheme.
The Scheme commits us:
- To proactively publish or otherwise make available as a matter of routine, information, including environmental information, which is held by the authority and falls within the classifications below.
- To specify the information which is held by the authority and falls within the classifications below.
- To proactively publish or otherwise make available as a matter of routine, information in line with the statements contained within this scheme.
- To produce and publish the methods by which the specific information is made routinely available so that it can be easily identified and accessed by members of the public.
- To review and update on a regular basis the information the authority makes available under this scheme.
- To produce a schedule of any fees charged for access to information which is made proactively available
- To make this publication scheme available to the public.
The Model Publication Scheme is a guide to the information that SGUL holds. It identifies seven ‘classes’ or categories of information. The classes, and the sections within, specify the information that the institution will make available now and in the future. The Publication Scheme also explains how such information will be made available and indicates whether a fee will be charged for providing the information. The purpose of the Model Publication Scheme is to make members of the public aware of the information that universities hold, and to assist universities in responding to requests for that information.
Accessing information covered by the Model Publication Scheme
As mentioned earlier, the Model Publication Scheme identifies seven classes of information, each of which contains a number of sections. Under each section there is a list of the documents that we intend to make available. Documents may be available as web documents and can therefore be printed directly from the website. Some documents may only be available in paper copy. If you wish to receive a copy of any of these documents, the relevant contact details are indicated in the Scheme.
The dates covered by the Model Publication Scheme
The Model Publication Scheme makes recommendations as to what information is included for each class. Please see the descriptions of classes for further information.
Classes of Information
Who we are and what we do: Organisational information, locations and contacts, constitutional and legal governance. This is current information only.
What we spend and how we spend it: Financial information relating to projected and actual income and expenditure, tendering, procurement and contracts. This information is for the current and previous two years.
What our priorities are and how we are doing: Strategy and performance information, plans, assessments, inspections and reviews. This information is for the current and previous three years.
How we make decisions: Policy proposals and decisions. Decision making processes, internal criteria and procedures, consultations. This is for the current and previous three years
Our policies and procedures: Current written protocols for delivering our functions and responsibilities. This is current information only.
Lists and Registers: Information held in registers required by law and other lists and registers relating to the functions of the authority. Currently maintained lists only.
The Services we offer: Advice and guidance, booklets and leaflets, transactions and media releases. A description of the services offered.
The Freedom of Information Act recognises that specific information may be exempt from the general right of access established by the law, or maybe prevented by law, or is otherwise considered to be protected from disclosure. For example, SGUL is permitted to exempt information that is commercially sensitive. Personal information and information that SGUL is intending to publish are also exempt from the requirement to make information publicly available. There is also no requirement to provide information in draft form, or information that is no longer readily available as it is contained in files that have been placed in archive storage, or is difficult to access for similar reasons.
SGUL is permitted to charge fees for making available the information covered by the Scheme. However, the charging policy for St George’s University of London is to provide information requested free to the requestor wherever possible. In certain and exceptional circumstances exemptions might apply; please contact Sheila Durkin, details below, for further information.
Information not covered by the Scheme
From January 2005, the right of access was extended to all information held by SGUL, not just the information in the Publication Scheme. Requests for information not covered by the Scheme can be made in writing to Sheila Durkin at the address below and SGUL will be expected to respond within twenty working days. Please note that the exemption categories still apply.
Responsibility for the Scheme
Responsibility for the Publication Scheme rests with:
St George’s University of London
Any comments that you may have about the Scheme, its usefulness, clarity and completeness, should be addressed to Sheila Durkin (details above).
Complaints and appeals
If you are not happy with the way in which we have handled your request, you can appeal by writing to the Secretary and Academic Registrar of the institution:
Secretary and Academic Registrar
St George’s University of London
The Information Commissioner has authority and responsibility under the Freedom of Information Act and you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office by email at (firstname.lastname@example.org), or at the following address:
Information Commissioner's Office
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
For more information see the Information Commissioner’s Office – Freedom of Information website.