Introduction to FOI

Legal requirement

1.1.     Adopting a publication scheme is a requirement of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.  This Act promotes greater openness and accountability across the public sector by requiring all ‘public authorities’ to make information available proactively, through a publication scheme. 

1.2.     ‘Public authorities’ are defined in the Act and include universities, further education colleges and sixth form colleges. 

What is a publication scheme?

A publication scheme is a document that describes the information a public authority publishes, or intends to publish.  In this context, ‘publish’ means to make information available, routinely.  These descriptions are called ‘classes of information’.  The scheme is not a list of the actual publications, because this will change as new material is published or existing material revised.  It is, however, the public authority’s commitment to make available the information described. 

1.3.     A publication scheme must set out the classes, or categories, of information published.  It must also make clear how the information described can be accessed and whether or not charges will be made.

The ‘model’ publication scheme for higher education

1.4.     The University of Chester has adopted the model publication scheme developed for the Higher Education sector and is therefore committed to publishing the information it describes.

1.5.     This model is designed for universities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  The purpose of the model is to save institutions duplicating effort in producing individual schemes and to assist the public in accessing information from across the sector.  However, to reflect the diversity in size and function of institution, a number of optional classes of information are included.  As a result, models within the sector will vary slightly.  Any optional classes relevant to us have been included in our scheme.

1.6.     To assist with the development of the model, a number of institutions across the sector volunteered as pilots.  Information about the pilot exercise is available from the JISC website http://www.jisc.ac.uk/index.cfm?name=mps_overview (Joint Information Systems Committee).

Who we are

1.7.     The Church of England established the University of Chester in 1839.  Two of its original founders were the nineteenth century prime ministers, Sir William Gladstone and the Earl of Derby.  Its original buildings were specifically designed for the training of teachers.  It is the oldest such University in the country and one of the oldest Higher Education establishments of any kind, predating most universities.  The University's traditional concern with the professional training of teachers is still strongly continued in the present B.Ed. and P.G.C.E. programmes.

1.8.     In the twentieth century the University grew and diversified steadily.  In 1910, it began its long and fruitful association with the University of Liverpool, whose degrees it still awards.  The establishment of the School of Nursing and Midwifery in the 1990s marked a particularly important stage in the University's diversification.  The University of Chester now has some 9,000 students drawn from all over the United Kingdom.  There are also strong international links, particularly with the United States, China, Japan, Russia, Greece, Finland, Hong Kong and Singapore.

1.9.     As well as B.Ed., B.A., B.Th., B.Sc. and LLB degrees, and courses leading to master's degrees, research degree supervision for MPhil. and Ph.D awards is a growing area of activity.  The recent development of courses in business and management, dietetics, criminology and journalism has further extended the University's work and connections with industry, commerce and the professions.  The University continues to invest in providing new accommodation, resources multi‑purpose teaching and learning buildings.

1.10. Two major landmarks in the University's history have recently been passed.  In August 2002 the University took responsibility for the Higher Education campus of Warrington Collegiate Institute.  In August 2003 the University was granted the power to award its own taught degrees, which brought with it University College status.

1.11. The University’s links with the community are many and various. For example, the University continues an association with the Chester Literature Festival and the Chester Music Festival.  Individual academic departments have formed valuable partnerships with sections of the City and County Councils in the areas of archaeology, out-of-school activities, the encouragement of schoolchildren to use local libraries, and a flourishing Drama School.  We have also participated in a number of nationally-driven volunteer initiatives, including the Millennium Volunteers, a programme to encourage 16-24 year-olds to spend some of their time for the benefit of others.

1.12. The University’s Ecumenical Chaplaincy and its Chapel continue to play an important part in its life.  The University Chapel’s weekly services, conducted in a variety of styles, attracted a growing number of participants.  Awareness and action on global issues is reflected in the ongoing success of the Chaplaincy’s Global Perspective initiative, which continues to increase its activities and influence in several areas of the world.  The Christian message permeates many aspects of University life.  As a consequence, our students often remark that the University cares about its students and that they enjoy living within a village type environment.  Within its measured expansion, the University’s Strategic Management Team and its University Council are mindful of the need to maintain this atmosphere.

1.13. Whilst Higher Education has changed, with students now being referred to as “customers,” many of our departing students still remark on those aspects of University life that are consistent with the aspirations of the founders.  They often speak of a friendly atmosphere and a village community.  The University continues to develop in size, but the founders’ ethos is evidently moving along in tandem and those who study and work at Chester still enjoy a good quality of experience.

Accessing information covered by the publication scheme

1.14. The classes of information we publish are described in the second part of the scheme. 

1.15. Next to each class we have indicated the manner in which the information described will be available.  We have also indicated whether charges apply to material in each class. 

1.16. To request information available through our publication scheme, please contact the relevant departments directly at the University address or to the Institutional Compliance Officer at the University's address.

1.17. Please note that a publication scheme relates to ‘published’ information.  Therefore, material covered has already been prepared in a format ready for distribution. 

What about information not covered by the publication scheme?

1.18. From 1 January 2005 there exist the right, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, to request any information held by a public authority that it has not already made available through its publication scheme. 

1.19. Requests will have to be made in writing and, in general, public authorities will have 20 working days to respond.  They may charge a fee, which will have to be calculated according to Fees Regulations.  They will not be required to release information to which an exemption in the Act legitimately applies.  However, public authorities may be required to explain to the applicant why they are not releasing information and they may also have to justify this to the Information Commissioner

Feedback

1.20. It is important that this publication scheme meets your needs.  If you find the scheme difficult to understand, please let us know.  We also welcome suggestions as to how our scheme might be improved.  Any questions, comments or complaints about this scheme should be sent in writing to the Publication Scheme Co-ordinator or to the University Secretary t the University.

1.21. If we are unable to resolve any complaint, you can complain to the Information Commissioner, the independent body who oversees the Freedom of Information Act:

Information Commissioner

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF

Tel: 01625 545700

Fax: 01625 545510

Further information

1.22. More information about the Freedom of Information Act is available on the Information Commissioner’s website at:

www.ico.gov.uk

1.23. Please note that Scotland has its own Freedom of Information Act and Information Commissioner.  For more information, please see the Scottish Executive’s website at: www.scotland.gov.uk/government/foi or http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/ for the Scottish Information Commissioner.