Barmy FOI requests

FOI Officers working in higher education have this week been bombarded by a series of FOI requests which looked remarkably similar but came from separate email addresses and were signed off with different names. The questions (three or four of which were in each email) were very long and rambling, but basically all related to the governance of Student Unions under the Education Act 1994.

It was clear that the requests were from one organisation, even if not the same person, and further research confirmed the likelihood of this.

In practice, whilst the requests are rather rambling, some of the information should be reasonably easy for universities to pull together. If it doesn’t prove that easy, there is enough evidence in the requests to support aggregation of the requests and refusal on grounds of cost should the cost of locating and retrieving the information requested in all four be more than £450 (requests can be aggregated if they’re from a campaign as well as if they’re from an individual).

But why send four or five requests when you can send one? Why pretend to be several people when it’s likely these were all written by one person (and why make such a rubbish pretence that you’re not the same person/organisation)? The questions could have been sent in one request (and made rather more succinct). My guess is that the requesters don’t understand the way the fees regulations work and are trying to bypass them.

In practice, all they’ve achieved is the irritation of every Higher Education FOI Officer in the country.  Perhaps they should be directed to my ten top tips for making responsible FOI requests!

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