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Freedom of Information Staff Guide: FoI and the Students' Union

All SOAS students are automatically members of the SOAS Students' Union. The Union has its own constitution and officers. The School has certain responsibilities for the Students' Union under the Union's constitution and under the Education Act 1994. However, the Students' Union is a separate legal entity from SOAS. 

This has implications for the position of the Students' Union in relation to Freedom of Information:

  • As an unincorporated association of members, the Students' Union is not a "public authority" in the sense of the Freedom of Information Act. This means that records of the Students' Union itself will not be covered by Freedom of Information, and cannot be requested under FoI. It is also unlikely that the Union would be considered to be covered by the Environmental Information Regulations (the definition of a "public authority" in the Regulations is broader and vaguer than that in the Freedom of Information Act).
  • Records which the School holds about the Students' Union, including communications with the Union and information provided to the School by the Students' Union, are covered by the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations, and can be requested.

The School will consult with the Students' Union in all cases where a Freedom of Information or Environmental Information request may involve the disclosure of information which was provided to the School by the Union, or where the disclosure may affect the commercial interests of the Union. However, the ultimate legal responsibility for deciding whether or not to release the information rests with the School.

The Students' Union is also separately responsible for ensuring that it complies with the requirements of the Data Protection Act.

Last updated January 2008