This overview forms the introduction to the Downing College publication scheme. It explains the background to the scheme and follows the suggested form of words provided by the Information Commissioner's Office as far as possible with additions for the sake of clarity or relevance to the College. Making a Freedom of Information Request also explains about how the Freedom of Information Act operates in the College context.

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, the Oxbridge Colleges, further education colleges and sixth form colleges. Since 2010 the Oxbridge Colleges have also operated as registered charities and are required by charity law to make a return of certain information to the Charity Commission.

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 complete 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. In the College's case links have been provided to content on the College's website which is then updated as appropriate.

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. Most of the information described in the College's scheme may be accessed online.

3 The ‘model’ publication scheme for higher education and the College

3.1 Downing College has adopted the model publication scheme developed for the Higher Education sector and is therefore committed to publishing the information it describes.

3.2 This model is designed for universities 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. 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 The College is not a University in itself but operates as an autonomous body within the federated structure of the University of Cambridge. To assist members of the public this scheme included links to the University of Cambridge website, but the College is not directly responsible for this content. Some of the categories in the model scheme do not precisely match to College activities. Every effort has been made to make as much information available as possible but queries and requests for clarification may arise and should be addressed to foi@dow.cam.ac.uk The College also welcomes feedback about the scheme.

4 Accessing information covered by the publication scheme

4.1 The classes of information we publish are described in the Publication Scheme and are generally available via the links in the scheme.

4.2 If the information is not available online please contact foi@dow.cam.ac.uk for assistance. There is not usually a charge for information on the publication scheme, although the College may impose a charge for high volumes of information requested, which will be agreed with the enquirer in advance.

4.3 Queries, feedback and information requests should be made to:

Paul Boult
Records Manager
Downing College
Cambridge CB2 1DQ

Tel: 01223 762069


Please note that this is a part-time post and that there may be a short delay in responding to you.

5 Information not covered by the publication scheme?

5.1 You have the right, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, to request any information held by the College which it has not already made available through its publication scheme.

5.2 Requests should be made in writing and the College will respond as soon as possible and within the time limit of 20 working days to respond. If the College does not hold the information or if an exemption applies that prevents its release then it is required to explain this and will do so as soon as possible. See Making a Freedom of Information request for further details

5.3 If you have a complaint about the College's compliance with the Freedom of Information Act that the College is unable to resolve, you may complain to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the independent body who oversees the Freedom of Information Act:

Information Commissioner
Wycliffe House
Water Lane

5.4 The ICO also offers advice to members of the public about the Freedom of Information Act via its website.