Business case for New York Campus

Sarah Delaney made this Freedom of Information request to Glasgow Caledonian University

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by Glasgow Caledonian University.

Dear Glasgow Caledonian University,

In a recent press report a spokesman for GCU is quoted

"It's a good investment as far as we're concerned. The business case was robust. We assessed the risks at the time and decided that it was a risk that was worth taking."

can you send me the robust business case that was considered by your court and the minute of court that approved it.

Yours faithfully,

Sarah Delaney

Freedom of Information Enquiries,

Dear Ms Delaney

Glasgow Caledonian University has received your request for information (below). The University is currently processing this and will get back to you as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely

Linda Reid
Department of Governance

T: +44 (0)141 273 1451 | F: +44 (0)141 331 8797 | E: [email address] Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, G4 0BA, Scotland, United Kingdom

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Dear Freedom of Information Enquiries,

I understand that today is the statutory deadline for the response to my request

Can you tell me when you will provide a response?

Yours sincerely,

Sarah Delaney

Freedom of Information Enquiries,

3 Attachments

Dear Ms Delaney

I refer to your request for information (e-mail below). The University's response is attached.

If you are dissatisfied with the way in which your request has been dealt with, you have certain rights which are set out in the attached leaflet.

Yours sincerely

Jean Ash
Information Compliance, Governance and Records Manager | Department of Governance

T: +44 (0)141 331 3341| F: +44 (0)141 331 8797 | E: [email address]
Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, G4 0BA,
Scotland, United Kingdom

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Dear Glasgow Caledonian University,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Glasgow Caledonian University's handling of my FOI request 'Business case for New York Campus'.

Can you please review your decision to refuse this request.
I would ask you to focus on how you applied the public interest test. It surely cannot be in the public interest for a public authority to make statements in public about a robust business case and then refuse to allow that case to be subject to public scrutiny. If that type of practice were deemed to be in the public interest it could only serve to encourage greater secrecy and much less transparency.

Also in terms of the public interest test there is an article in the Sunday Herald today about the expenses claimed by your principal in New York. Clearly the public interest in this matter is increasing. Given that there is now a greater public interest in this matter and increased public concern that the business case may not have been adequate to justify this type of expenditure. In the light of that can you please re-consider how you have applied the public interest test in this case.

Thank You

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/b...

Yours faithfully,

Sarah Delaney

Freedom of Information Enquiries,

Dear Ms Delaney

Glasgow Caledonian University has received your request for a review (below). The review will be undertaken by an officer not involved in handling your request and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely

Jean Ash
Information Compliance, Governance and Records Manager | Department of Governance

T: +44 (0)141 331 3341| F: +44 (0)141 331 8797 | E: [email address]
Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, G4 0BA,
Scotland, United Kingdom

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Freedom of Information Enquiries,

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Delaney,

 

I refer to your request for an internal Freedom of Information review
dated 29 November 2015 relating to the response provided by Glasgow
Caledonian University (GCU) on 27 November 2015 to your FOI request dated
29 October 2015. Further to this request, I can advise that I have
conducted this review and have set out my decision on the review outcome,
and the detailed reasons for that decision, below.

 

Background

      

On 29th October 2015, you had submitted a request for information under
the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (the FOI request)
requesting details of the business case for the GCU New York (GCU NY)
Campus, that was considered by the University Court, and the minute of the
Court meeting that approved the business case.

 

On 27 November 2015, the University responded to your FOI request and
advised that the University considered that the disclosure of the business
case at this time would be likely to substantially prejudice the
University’s commercial interests. The University had therefore decided
that the information was exempt from disclosure pursuant to section
33(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. You were
advised that, in making this decision, the University had considered the
public interest test and had decided that the public interest in
non-disclosure had outweighed the public interest in disclosure of the
information. It is against this decision on the application of the public
interest test that you have now requested an internal review be conducted.

 

Review decision

 

After considering your FOI request, the University’s response to your
request and the terms of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, I
have determined that the University was correct in its application of the
Act to your request and in particular was correct in its application of
the public interest test. Notwithstanding this, I would accept that the
basis for the University’s original decision could have been explained
more fully to you and as such wish to apologise on behalf of the
University for any misunderstanding arising from the communication of the
original decision. I have set out the full reasons for my decision below.

 

Reasons for decision

 

In making the decision on the original request, you had been advised by
the University that it had considered the public interest test and that it
believed that disclosing the business case at this stage in the
application process would be likely to impact negatively on the
University’s plans by giving to others either competitive advantage in the
same market or else the means to damage the University’s live business
interests in New York through tendentious or inaccurate reporting. The
University decided that the public interest lay in the successful
development of the university and therefore the public interest in
withholding this information outweighed the public interest in its
disclosure.

 

You have requested that the University review the application of this test
having regard to the following matters (extracted from the your request
for internal review):

 

1.       ‘It surely cannot be in the public interest for a public
authority to make statements in public about a robust business case and
then refuse to allow that case to be subject to public scrutiny. If that
type of practice were deemed to be in the public interest it could only
serve to encourage greater secrecy and much less transparency’

 

2.       ‘There is an article in the Sunday Herald today [29 November
2015] about the expenses claimed by your principal in New York. Clearly
the public interest in this matter is increasing. Given that there is now
a greater public interest in this matter and increased public concern that
the business case may not have been adequate to justify this type of
expenditure. In the light of that can you please re-consider how you have
applied the public interest test in this case.’

I shall address each point in turn.

 

Your first point of review is premised on the public interest in ensuring
transparency and public scrutiny of the University’s operations, in this
case as they relate to GCU NY.  In this regard, the University accepts
that there is a general public interest in information being made
available. In addition, the University acknowledges that there is a public
interest in ensuring effective oversight of expenditure of University
funds and that the public obtain value for money. At the same time, the
University maintains that there is a public interest in the successful
development of the University with the attendant benefits to its students
and the broader community in addition to a wider public interest in
ensuring fair and effective public administration.

 

In its response, the University had stated that it had a live application
before the New York State Education Department for degree awarding
authority. It stated that there was a real risk of prejudice to the fair
hearing of that application through any tendentious or inaccurate
reporting of this information.

In addition, the University had stated that the information comprising the
business case for GCU NY contained business intelligence relating to
market information, outline operating costs and financial projections. The
University determined that as the University operated in a competitive and
global market, disclosure would provide competitor institutions with
information which could undermine the University’s competitive position,
and hence, its commercial interests.

 

In applying the public interest test, the University was entitled to
maintain that the public interest lay in not disclosing the information
for the following reasons:

 

·         Disclosure of the information would seriously undermine the
public interest in ensuring fair and effective public administration
through ensuring that the University’s application before the New York
State Education Department was considered fairly on its own merits;

·         Disclosure of the business intelligence contained in the
business case would seriously undermine the  public interest in the
successful development of the University with the attendant benefits to
its students and the broader community;

·         While there is a general public interest in disclosure and in
ensuring effective oversight of expenditure of University funds and that
the public obtain value for money, this does not outweigh the specific
public interest associated with non-disclosure of the business case where
the public interest in disclosure cited in this case is otherwise served
by information already provided by the University;

·         In this regard, the University prepares annual audited financial
statements each year and submits these accounts to the Scottish Funding
Council in addition to making these reports available on its website at
the following link:
[1]http://www.gcu.ac.uk/financeoffice/annua...

·         These reports contain detailed information about the financial
performance and position, governance and operations of the University. In
addition, the University’s operations are subject both to internal and
external audit activity throughout the year and this is also reflected in
these reports.

Having regard to the matters outlined above, I have determined that in all
the circumstances it was reasonable for the University to determine that
the balance of public interest lay in not disclosing the specific
information contained in the business case. This is particularly the case
as the decision to make an application for degree awarding authority to
the New York State Education Department had already been made at the time
of your request. As such, the public interest in scrutinising and debating
this business case after the fact is correspondingly diminished when
weighed against the real and substantial risk of prejudice to the fair
consideration of the application currently before the New York State
Education Department.

 

It is acknowledged by the University that the Scottish Information
Commissioner has made it clear that a risk of misreporting information is
insufficient to establish a public interest in non-disclosure of that
information as any misapprehension can be corrected through the provision
of additional information. For the sake of clarity and the avoidance of
doubt, the University did not base its decision on the public interest
test on the mere risk of misreporting this information. Rather the
University maintains that the tendentious or inaccurate reporting of the
information contained in the business case while an application for degree
awarding powers before the New York State Education Department is pending
consideration represents a real, specific and substantial risk of
prejudice to the fair hearing of its application and as such the public
interest in fair and effective public administration is best served
through non-disclosure of this information. Moreover, as previously noted,
the risk that the University’s competitive position, or overall
development, could be more generally compromised remains an important
consideration to be balanced against the public interest in disclosure of
the information.

 

In relation to your second point of review, I have considered the matters
referred to in the article and have determined that the article does not
disclose any additional information that would alter the analysis outlined
above. I would refer to the guidance provided by the Office of the
Scottish Information Commissioner concerning the application of the public
interest test which states that, while there is no definition of ‘public
interest’ provided for in the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002,
it has been described as:

 

‘something which is of serious concern and benefit to the public, not
merely something of individual interest. It has also been described as
“something that is “in the interests of the public”, not merely “of
interest to the public.”’

 

The guidance then states that, when applying the test, the University must
consider whether it serves the interests of the public better to withhold
or disclose information. For the reasons stated above, the University was
correct to maintain that it served the interests of the public better that
the information was not disclosed.

 

Once again, while I consider that the University was correct to apply the
public interest test in this way, I would accept that the basis for this
decision could have been explained more fully and as such wish to
apologise to you on behalf of the University for any misunderstanding that
may have arisen around the University’s application of the exemption in
section 33 (1)(b) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and in
particular, the application of the public interest test.

 

Right of Appeal

 

If you are dissatisfied with this decision, you have the right to refer
the matter to the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner (OSIC).
The contact details for the Commissioner are:

 

Kinburn Castle

Doubledykes Road

St Andrews

KY16 9DS

 

Telephone: 01334 464610

Fax: 01334 464611

e-mail: [2][email address]

 

Thereafter an appeal can be made, on a point of law only, to the Court of
Session and must be made within 42 days of receipt of the OSIC’s decision
notice.

 

Kind regards,

 

 

Riley Power

Governance Manager | Department of Governance

 

T: +44 (0)141 331 3477 | E: [3][email address]

Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, G4 0BA

 

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http://www.gcu.ac.uk/media/gcalwebv2/the...

 

 

 

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