Information for Staff

Information for Staff
How to Handle Requests

Guidance for Staff

What counts as a valid Freedom of Information (FOI) request?

A valid request simply has to be:

  1. A request which has been put in writing or any kind of recorded information that can be kept for future reference, such as paper, email, audio or video tape, computer files or microfiche.
  2. which also states the full name of the applicant and includes an address so that the University can reply (an email address is acceptable as a valid address)
  3. and describes the information requested


  • The requester does not have to mention their rights under the Act, or give reasons for why they want the information.
  • Verbal requests for information are not covered, however under the Act we have a duty to assist and advice the requester on how they can access the information they seek.
  • Scotland's Freedom of Information law requires that all requests for information are responded to within 20 working days, for non-exempt information.

Do we have to give enquirers all the information they ask for?

  • In general, we should aim to provide enquirers with the information they want. However, if we do not actually hold the information, if it would need a lot of work to find it, or if we have genuine concerns about the consequences of releasing it, we can refuse to provide it. The Act allows for reasonable withholding of such information.
  • If we need to withhold any information, the request must follow the formal process under the Act. These requests will be dealt with by the FOI team and will be assigned a formal reference number (such as FOI:2018 -123), which is used to log and track the request throughout the formal process.
  • In such cases, you would need to contact the FOI team to establish whether an exemption can be claimed.

How should we respond to an information request?

Workflow Chart

Step 1:

Ask yourself the following three questions:

Q1. Is the request simple and straight forward? YES/NO

Q2. Can you release all the requested information on time (within 20 working days)? YES/NO

Q3. Is it unlikely that the applicant will be dissatisfied with the response? YES/NO

Step 2:

If the answer to all three questions = YES

Treat as a routine business as usual enquiry (bau)

On receipt of a request, you should respond immediately to confirm that it has been received.

  • Provide the information quickly and easily within 20 working days
  • No need to make reference to the Act in your response
  • If in any doubt contact for advice

Step 3:

If the answer to any of the questions = NO

Treat as a formal FOI request

  • Forward the request as soon as possible to the FOI team. Contact the FOI office at
  • A formal foi reference number will be assigned to the request (e.g. FOI:2018 -123)
  • We will ask you to establish what information is held in your area and ask you about the reasons for withholding the information requested
  • We will work with you to determine what information may be released and what information may be withheld under an appropriate exemption
  • The FOI team will draft the University's response to the requester or explain why the information has not been provided.

Requests for information about the environment, are valid under the Environmental Information Regulations.

  • Where a person is asking for information we hold about themselves, this has to be dealt with as a Subject Access Request under Artcile 15 of the General Data Protection Regulation. The enquirer has a general right to see information we hold but they must provide some form of identification. Please see "Data Protection" pages for further details.

Please contact the Information Compliance Officer, for advice and guidance on how to handle information requests which you think may come under these important pieces of information legislation.

Freedom of Information Office

Edward Wright Building
The University of Aberdeen
Dunbar Street
AB24 3QY


Useful link:

10 Things You Need To Know
  • 10 key points have been summarised, as a helpful guide for all staff to raise awareness and understanding of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 in your workarea and teams.
  • The Act has implications for everyone and it is important to know our responsibilities, obligations and compliance with the legislation.
  • This guide has been prepared for all staff, following a presentation to senior management by Pinsent Mason in October 2103