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The Data Protection Act 2018 defines an examination as ‘any process for determining the knowledge, intelligence, skill or ability of a candidate by reference to his performance in any test, work or other activity’. This means that under the Act the same provisions apply to any type of assessment, including field work and written assessment work, and not just to examinations.

Students may therefore request access to personal information held by the university which relate to any form of assessment undertaken as a part of their course.

Information covered by the Act, and so subject to an access request, includes:

  • examination marks

  • examiners’ comments (internal and external)

  • minutes of examination appeals panels.

Examination marks

These are covered by the Act, but where a request is received prior to the formal release of results by the university, disclosure is subject to the criteria outlined in the exemption below.

Examiners’ comments

Data subjects have the right to request access to comments made by examiners, whether these are made on the script itself or on a separate sheet which can be related back to the original script.

Guidance to examiners should be such so as to ensure that their comments are intelligible and appropriate, and capable of being produced in a meaningful form for the purposes of a subject access request.

Examination boards and appeals panels

Any panel, board or committee that discusses or makes decisions with regard to examination performance will be subject to access requests made under the Data Protection Act. A data subject can request a copy of minutes where they are either explicitly named, or where they are referred to by a unique personal identifier (eg a student number).


Examination scripts

The Act states that where personal data consists of “information recorded by candidates during an academic, professional or other examination” they are exempt from a subject access request. This means that exam scripts would not be included in the information disclosed to you when you submit a request to the University for your personal data.

The university is not required to provide copies of exam scripts or any information recorded in them by the student themselves, or provide the student with access to their exam scripts.

Examination marks

This exemption relates to the period of time which the university has to deal with a request for access to examination marks where the request is made before the results have been officially announced. Where a student submits a request for their marks before they have been officially released, the university is then required to respond within:

  • five months of the date of the request or

  • 40 days of the date the results are published

whichever is earlier.

Examination questions

For the purposes of clarity, it should be noted that examination questions are not subject to an access request under the Data Protection Act. Details of exam questions are not disclosed in order to maintain the integrity of the examination process, and to ensure that no candidate, either present or future, gains an unfair advantage by virtue of having access to such information. 

Disclosing results

It will be a condition of acceptance as a student at the university that examination results may be made public on results boards and at degree ceremonies. While the university has a legitimate interest in publishing results, consideration will be given to any concerns and/or objections a data subject may have in relation to the publication of their results.


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