This article is more than 6 years old

Information overload

Freedom of Information is possibly over-rated. As these examples of FOI requests to one university demonstrate.
This article is more than 6 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

You can have just too much information


I’ve written before about the questionable benefits of the Freedom of Information Act, particularly in relation to universities.

Tony Blair, reflecting back in 2010 on his government’s introduction of the Freedom of Information Act, regarded it as a particularly unwise step and himself as idiotic for pushing it.


He claims that FOI is not used, for the most part, by “the people”, but by journalists. His view is that “For political leaders, it’s like saying to someone who is hitting you over the head with a stick, ‘Hey, try this instead’, and handing them a mallet.”

It doesn’t feel wholly dissimilar in universities and the number of FOI requests we receive at the University of Nottingham continues to grow. It’s not just the numbers though but the subject of some of these which just makes you question the benefits of this particular piece of legislation:

  • The cost of open day clothing worn by staff and students
  • Number of registered users for all libraries over 3 years
  • Number of times named pornographic websites have been accessed from March to August 2015
  • Number of bodies donated to the university for anatomical examination over 5 years
  • Amount spent on art for university buildings and most expensive piece between 2010-15
  • Chaplaincy – Denomination, financial contribution by the University and space occupied
  • Information on drug testing of students before exams
  • Costs for prayer rooms and funding for religious societies and other societies
  • Spend on electrical work over the past three years
  • We’re asked for our youngest PVC
  • FOI and SARs responded to on time and not on time in 2014
  • Total number of FOI requests received in 2014
  • Number of deaths on university property over past 10 years
  • Money spent by the University on Christmas Trees, decorations and parties
  • Total number of FOI requests we’ve had over the past five years
  • Costs of fire incidents in kitchens of Halls over past 3 years
  • URLs of any websites blocked by the University
  • Legal action against student protestors
  • Number times university has used contracted incident response services
  • The cost of buffets and banquets
  • The amount University has spent on garments this year
  • A list of items reported lost or stolen in Library
  • Contact details for electrical PAT testing companies used
  • Total student disciplinary fines 2014/15
  • Information relating to students and caffeinated beverages
  • Number of examination scripts lost over 5 years plus resolutions and compensation
  • Number of ice cleats bought over 3 years and number of accidents due to icy/snowy conditions
YearTotalAverage p/month

*So far

You really couldn’t make this stuff up.

2 responses to “Information overload

  1. My favourite is the FOI request to find out how many FOI’s have been requested! Hilarious.

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