The Freedom of Information Act (2000) came fully into force from 1 January 2005, and provides public access to information held by public authorities. The Act covers any recorded information that is held by a public authority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and by UK-wide public authorities based in Scotland. Recorded information includes printed documents, computer files, letters, emails, photographs, and sound or video recordings. Because of their access to public funding, universities are designated as public authorities for the purposes of the Act.
The Act enables any person anywhere in the world to make a Freedom of Information request, in writing, to a public authority, and normally the public authority must respond within 20 working days. “In writing” can be by either hard copy or electronic means. The person making the request does not have to say that they are exercising their rights under the Freedom of Information Act.
According to government guidance, Students' Unions are not considered public authorities for the purposes of the Act.
Implementation of the Freedom of Information Act is overseen nationally by the Information Commissioner's office, which has the same role in relation to Data Protection.
The Act does not give people access to their own personal data (information about themselves) such as their student records. If a member of the public wants to see information that a public authority holds about them, they should make a subject access request under the The General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018.