The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) applies to all ‘public authorities’ as defined in the Act, including the University of Cambridge. (Each Cambridge College is a separate public authority under the FOIA.) It gives a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities and sets out exemptions from that right. A public authority has two main responsibilities under the FOIA:
- producing a guide to the information it makes publicly available
- dealing with individual written requests for information and providing the information if it is not already published, or exempt from release
The FOIA requires the University to adopt a Publication Scheme. This details the categories of information made available on a routine basis. The University has adopted the latest Model Publication Scheme produced by the Information Commissioner, the independent authority responsible for compliance with the FOIA. A Guide to Information has been produced in accordance with the Information Commissioner’s Definition Document for Universities and other Higher Education Institutions.
The FOIA provides a general right of access by an individual to the information held by the University. Any person wishing to exercise this right must make their request in writing. The University must state whether it holds the information and, subject to any applicable exemptions and to the levying of any charges as permitted under the FOIA, must normally supply the information within 20 working days. The information must be supplied in a format acceptable to the applicant (e.g. by email or in hard copy) so far as reasonably practicable. The University also has a duty to provide reasonable advice and assistance to anyone seeking information.