Freedom of Information

Introduction

The Balliol College Publication Scheme has been produced under section 19 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. It aims to help you find information about the College easily and quickly.

1

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.

2

What is a publication scheme?

2.1

A publication scheme is a document which 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. 

2.2

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.

3

The ‘model’ publication scheme’ or higher education

3.1

Balliol College, Oxford, has developed the model publication scheme prepared for the higher/further education sector and is committed to publishing the information it describes.        

3.2

This model is designed for universities, further education colleges and sixth form colleges 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. The model scheme itself can be viewed via the Information Commissioner’s website.

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.

3.3

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 (Joint Information Systems Committee) website.

4

Who we are

The College was founded about the year 1263 by John de Balliol - according to legend as a penance for insulting a bishop. It is one of the oldest Oxford colleges (the oldest by the criterion of continuous existence as an academic society on the original site) in the University, though the buildings are a medley of styles from the 15th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, grouped around two quadrangles. Among those associated with the College in the course of its history are the 14th-century reformer and Bible-translator John Wyclif and the 18th-century political economist Adam Smith. It was, however, in the 19th century that Balliol really rose to prominence by vigorously promoting University reform, and above all by pursuing academic excellence in a liberal environment.

Balliol is a fairly large college by Oxford standards, having about 400 undergraduates and about an equal number of graduate students, drawn from a wide range of countries.

Oxford is a collegiate university and the relationship between the University and the colleges is a federal one.

The University defines the subjects of study, draws up the syllabuses, appoints examiners, confers degrees, and offers lectures, classes and practical courses which are open to the members of all colleges.

The colleges are independent bodies which govern themselves under statutes approved by Parliament. They carry out their own admissions and are the channel by which students become members of the University.

Fellows of the College are engaged in teaching or research and sometimes both. A wide range of arts and science subjects are taught at Balliol. There are about 400 undergraduate students at Balliol working for their first degree (BA) and about an equal number of graduate students studying for higher degrees. Undergraduates have tutorials in College. In very small groups with the tutor and attend lectures, seminars or lab demonstrations in University faculties or departments. Research students carry out research separately or, especially in science, are members of  research groups. All graduate students have a specialist supervisor overseeing their work.

Around 85 per cent of undergraduates live in College or in the Jowett Walk building. Undergraduates must be in residence for three terms a year - Michaelmas (October to December), Hilary (January to March), and Trinity (April to June). Most graduate students live at Holywell Manor (the College’s graduate complex) and they are in residence throughout the year.

Taking part in sporting activities is an important part of college life. Balliol’s sports field, the Master’s Field, is one of the most central of all the Oxford colleges. The students have access to a wide range of sports from football to rowing, croquet and chess.

Communal eating is a traditional part of College life. The Fellows eat in the Senior Common Room (SCR); the undergraduate students (members of the Junior Common Room - JCR)) eat in Hall. The graduate students (members of the Middle Common Room - MCR)), have their own dining facilities at Holywell Manor. Formal dinners, College Feasts and special events take place in Hall, when members of the SCR, MCR and JCR dine together.

The College also provides state-of-the-art computing facilities and libraries, and there is a fully equipped theatre which is located in the new Jowett Walk building. 

5

Accessing information covered by the publication scheme

5.1

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

5.2

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. In class where a £ sign is shown in the Fee column, it will be necessary to supply the Freedom of Information Officer with a stamped addressed A4 envelope with a £1 stamp affixed. If the costs of photocopying and postage are significantly higher, we will contact you with a request for additional payment.

5.3

To request information available through our publication scheme, please contact:  

Freedom of Information Officer
Balliol College
Oxford OX1 3BJ
Email: foi.officer@balliol.ox.ac.uk

5.4

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

6

What about information not covered by the publication scheme?

6.1

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

6.2

Requests must be made in writing and, in general, public authorities have 20 working days to respond. They may charge a fee, which will have to be calculated according to Fees Regulations. Please note that in accordance with Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act, Balliol College reserves the right to refuse a request where the cost of researching, extracting or copying the information is disproportionately high.

They are not 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.

7

Feedback

7.1

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 below:

Freedom of Information Officer
Balliol College
Oxford OX1 3BJ

7.2

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

8

Further information

 

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

Scotland has its own Freedom of Information Act and Information Commissioner. For more information, please see the Scottish Executive’s website.