Requests for information: Why we would withhold information?

Requests for information: Why we would withhold information?

Members of the public have a general right to access all information held by the University of Aberdeen as a Scottish public authority.  However, information may be withheld in certain circumstances in line with the exemptions and exceptions available within the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) or the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs).

If there is an appropriate exemption under FOISA or exception under the EIRs, we may withhold information in whole or in part by removing or redacting the information before providing it to the applicant.  We will always explain why we have withheld or redacted information.

Whilst there are some differences in how exemptions under FOISA and exceptions under the EIRs can be applied, there are a number of similarities.  We have highlighted some of the circumstances below in which the University may refuse to supply the information.

There are further exemptions under which we may withhold information. Colleagues are encouraged to contact the Information Governance Team if their assessment is information may need to be withheld.

Information already otherwise accessible

This is when the information that has been requested is already publicly available, for instance if the information has already been published on our website or if third party organisations already make the information available with or without a cost being incurred. We will provide the applicant with a link to where they can view the information or provide the contact details of the organisation who holds the information together with sufficient information to enable this to be located.

Information Not Held

This is when the information requested is not recorded or held by the University.  For instance, because we do not have a requirement to do so, or the information has been destroyed in line with our retention and destruction procedures. The University is not required to create information in order to respond to a request under FOISA or EIRs.

Personal Information

Applicants have a separate right to access their own personal information the University holds about them. As there is a separate statutory regime for requesting personal data under Data Protection Legislation (known as a Subject Access Request), the University is not allowed to release it under FOISA or the EIRs. A Subject Access Request can be made by asking any member of University staff and the request would then be passed to the Information Governance Team or contact us direct at

Third party personal information

A response to a request may include another individual’s personal information.  We are unable to supply this information if doing so would breach the principles of the Data Protection Legislation. This includes information that may indirectly identify an individual.

Prejudice to the Effective Conduct of Public Affairs

This is when information is exempt as disclosing it would prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs, or inhibit free and frank discussions or the provision of advice.

Commercially sensitive information

This is when the information requested is commercially sensitive, either to the University, a Third Party or both, and releasing it in response to a request would significantly prejudice commercial interests.

Excessive Cost / Manifestly Unreasonable

This is when providing a response to the request would result in a large amount of work. Under FOISA, a public authority does not have to provide information where the cost of providing the information is more than £600. Under the EIRs, a public authority does not have to provide information where the cost of providing a response would be too burdensome to deal with or disrupt a public authority’s ability to perform its core functions.

Confidential Information

We will exempt information if providing it is deemed to be a breach of confidence. Information may also be confidential if it comprises legal advice.

The Public Interest Test

Many of the exemptions and exceptions are subject to the Public Interest Test. This means that we must decide whether the public interest in withholding the information is stronger than the public interest in releasing it.