Writing the response

Procedures for all staff for writing a response to a freedom of information request where you are providing all of the requested information, or where the information is easily accessible to the public, for example through the University website.

1. Check the information prior to disclosure

  • Is the information accurate?
  • Does the information answer all of the applicant's questions?
  • Is the information formatted professionally and appropriately?
  • Are you sure that there is no hidden data?
  • If the information you are releasing includes statistics ensure it is appropriately anonymised. 
  • Guidance on anonymised statistics

Hidden data

Hidden data is data which might not be immediately visible when you view a document, but it may be possible for other people to view or retrieve the information.

Be cautious with spreadsheets. Make sure you don't accidentally release information because it is hidden behind a filter, or a pivot table.

Microsoft Office products have functionality that helps you to remove hidden data, if you press F1 for help and type "remove hidden data" in the search bar you can find the relevant guidance.

2. Use the letter template

This letter template is suitable for responding to requests where:

  • Providing all the requested information
  • Claiming the 'fewer than five' exemption where you are withholding statistics with small numbers because they may lead to individuals being identifiable (contact Information Compliance Services if you aren't sure about this)
  • The information is already accessible for example through the University publication scheme, or the University website, or a published book
  • The information can most sensibly be obtained from another organisation

  • The requested information is not held by the University

You must include the right to review statement. This is a legal requirement.

If you refer to information which is information readily accessible, for example on the University website or a published book, you must also include the paragraph on the technical exemption.

Your response should also be professionally and appropriately presented. For this reason we recommend using your business unit's letterhead.

If the request you are answering is more complex than this or you need help using the template, please contact your local practitioner for advice in the first instance.

Further advice is available for practitioners on our wiki page. Please see: