Frequently asked questions

Handling FOISA requests

The majority of FOISA requests received by Heriot-Watt University are submitted via the generic email address

Staff in Heritage and Information Governance (HIG), with the help of colleagues in Professional Services and Schools, will gather the information. HIG staff draft a reply which is then signed off by the information owners and Marketing and Communications. HIG replies on behalf of the University.

Read more about how we handle FOISA requests.

The law and interaction with other legislation
  • What is the Freedom of information (Scotland) Act 2002?
  • What is meant by a "Scottish public authority" under the Act?
  • Has the Act only been introduced in Scotland?
  • What sort of information and documentation is covered by the Act?

For answers to all of these and more, read more about The law and interaction with other legislation.

Complaints and non-compliance

There are a number of measures in place to ensure that best practices and the law are complied with; to provide safeguards for public bodies so that "confidential/ commercial" information remains exempt from release; and to ensure that requesters can challenge public bodies when a decision is taken not to release information.

  • What sanctions can be applied for non-compliance?
  • Is there an appeal process if we withhold information?
  • Does the Scottish Information Commissioner have the final say as to whether information should be released of withheld?
  • What happens if our response goes over the 20 day deadline?
  • What would happen if the requester complains that the no response has been received after the 20 day deadline has lapsed?

For answers to all these questions, read more about Complaints and non-compliance.

Commercial interests and confidentiality

The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 provides that we may be required to release information even when an exemption applies.

In such circumstances, Heriot-Watt University will undertake a "public interest test". We would need to consider whether the public interest in withholding the exempt information outweighs the public interest in releasing it.

Read more about What FOI practitioners are asked and their responses.

How do FOI and the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs) overlap?

The definition of “Environmental Information” is very broad and it is not always easy to determine where the remit of FOI ends and the EIRs begin. We handle all requests for information under FOI and also apply the relevant requirements of the EIRs to each request where needed.

The Scottish Information Commissioner has produced guidance on the differences between FOI and the EIRs.

Are the activities undertaken by the Dubai and Malaysia campuses also covered by the FOI and Data Protection Acts?

All information held by the University in Scotland relating to its international campuses and activities is covered by the relevant Acts. Under the Data Protection Act, Heriot-Watt University is the Data Controller for the personal data for all applicants, current and former students across all campuses and modes of study. The University must also comply with privacy and other legislation in the relevant jurisdictions.

Key information