In a recent FOI response, the government provided me with a document listing the ‘key points’ of a meeting between the SQA, Scottish Government and Universities Scotland on the 3rd of November 2022.
This document states:
“Purpose of the meeting was to discuss the difficulties and challenges encountered this year in relation to the exam results appeals process. Although there was a priority appeals process in place to prioritise those students who had submitted an appeal, the outcome of which would decide whether the student had achieved the results to attend the university of their choice, the deadlines for the appeals results and the start dates of various universities and courses did not align and this caused issues for some students with conditional offers who were not able to secure a place in the current academic year.”
Other parts of the document are redacted, for which I will submit a request for review, but I would like to also submit three further FOI requests.
Please release the following information
FOI request 1: The total number of students with conditional offers who were not able to secure a place [at university] in the current academic year
FOI request 2: Copies of material regarding the meeting from before it took place (this would include communication about the upcoming meeting as well as documents such as briefings and analysis)
FOI request 3: Copies of any material (other than that already released to me) from during or after the event (this would include personal/handwritten notes, any other minutes, recordings, subsequent email exchanges etc)
I enclose some of the information you requested.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because an exemption under sections; 17 (information not held), 30(b)(ii) (free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation) or 38(1)(b) (personal information) of FOISA applies to that information.
This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not hold the information you have requested in relation to FOI request 1 - The total number of students with conditional offers who were not able to secure a place [at university] in the current academic year.
The Scottish Government does not have the information you have asked for because it is not responsible for the information requested. Universities are autonomous bodies and as such, decisions relating to entry and admissions are for the individual institutions to make.
Exemptions under section 30(b)(ii) of FOISA (free and frank exchange of views) apply to some of the information requested under Parts 2 and 3 of the request. These exemptions apply because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank provision of advice and exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation, as part of relationships which remain vital in supporting the delivery of qualifications through the Covid-19 pandemic and while we return to a more normal position.
These exemptions are subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemptions. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemptions.
We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of an open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing Ministers and officials a private space within which issues can be explored and refined to enable the Government as a whole to reach a decision that is sound and likely to be effective, particularly while the importance of the advice from these relationships continues to have a bearing on how qualifications are affected by the ongoing impact of Covid-19 going forward. This private thinking space also allows for all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken.
An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to some of the information requested under Parts 2 and 3 because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. names and contact details, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.
- File type
- 42 page PDF
- File size
- 484.6 kB
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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