Rises in fees

Jack Dines made this Freedom of Information request to University of Leeds

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The request was partially successful.

Dear University of Leeds,

Please provide copies of all internal documents that discuss or
list risks (including but not limited to operational and
reputational risks) associated with the rise in student tuition fees. This could
include, but is not limited to, a project risk register.

Yours faithfully,

Jack Dines

Dear University of Leeds,

Just checking you had seen the above request...

Yours faithfully,

Jack Dines

Jenny Foggin,

Dear Jack,

I've been away and am just checking up this morning on the requests that I need to acknowledge. This one's among them, so I can confirm receipt.

Best wishes,

Jenny
-------------------------------------------
From: Jack Dines[SMTP:[email address]]
Sent: Thursday, August 11, 2011 9:52:59 AM
To: Freedom of Information
Subject: Re: Freedom of Information request - Rises in fees
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Dear University of Leeds,

Just checking you had seen the above request...

Yours faithfully,

Jack Dines



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Dear Jenny Foggin,

I believe you're now late with you're reply

Yours sincerely,

Jack Dines

Jenny Foggin,

Dear Jack,

You're quite right; I do apologise. It proved more difficult than anticipated to locate the relevant information, but I will send a full response as soon as possible.

Best wishes,

Jenny

***************************************************
Jenny Foggin

Governance and Corporate Affairs Officer
University of Leeds
Secretariat
(0113) 343 1155
**************************************

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Jenny Foggin,

9 Attachments

Dear Jack,

I have set out below and in the attachments information in response to your request of 7 August. I do apologise again for the delayed response.

I have included all documents that contain references to risk or risks associated with the rise in tuition fees, drawn from internal committee papers (including minutes) although, as you will see, these are not numerous. I have also included for completeness a copy of a PowerPoint presentation given to the Council in March 2011. Although this does not refer explicitly to risks associated with higher tuition fees, it may provide helpful contextual information about the University's assessment of risks associated with the student experience, and its approach to mitigating them.

The contents of such papers are confidential to members of the University and include some data, outside the scope of your request, that I believe to be covered by exemptions set out under the Freedom of Information Act. For this reason, I have not provided full copies of papers, but have extracted the information relevant to your query. I am happy to set out in more detail the exemptions and my reasons for applying them if it would be helpful. To clarify, though, I have not withheld any information about risk or risks associated with the rise in tuition fees - this has simply been extracted from the relevant documents.

Many papers pass through several committees. Where this has been the case, and in order to avoid potential for confusion, I have not duplicated information. The same points, in the same words, were, in several cases, made in successive iterations of a paper. Again, to avoid potential for confusion, I have included the text in the attached data only once.

Information about the University's committee and decision-making structure is available on our webpages as part of our publication scheme, but do let me know if there is any further contextual information that would be helpful.

I hope this is helpful in resolving your query. If you have any questions about this email, however, please don't hesitate to contact me.

If you are unhappy with the service that you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of the decision, you should write to Mr David Wardle, University Complaints Officer, Secretariat, 11.72 EC Stoner Building, the University of Leeds, Leeds Ls2 9JT.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the relevant review/complaints procedure provided by the University. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at the Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

Yours,

Jenny Foggin

***************************************************
Jenny Foggin

Governance and Corporate Affairs Officer
University of Leeds
Secretariat
(0113) 343 1155
**************************************

Dear Jenny Foggin,

Thanks for all of these, if you would be able to send me the full documents with names that conflict with the act removed that would be brilliant, just to give these a bit more context.

Yours sincerely,

Jack Dines

Jenny Foggin,

Dear Jack,

Sorry; I don't think I replied to this on Monday. I will sort through the documents and get back to you by 10 October.

Best wishes,

Jenny

show quoted sections

Jenny Foggin

Governance and Corporate Affairs Officer
University of Leeds
Secretariat
(0113) 343 1155
**************************************

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Jenny Foggin,

1 Attachment

 

Dear Jack,

 

Further to your email below, I have re-examined the documents from which I
extracted the information requested in your email of 7 August.

 

The document ‘student risks’ has already been provided in its entirety.

 

I am happy to provide the full version of paper CL/09/73, 'Key
Institutional Risks' (referred to in my earlier email as 'CL_2), which is
now attached. This is, in my judgement, a sufficiently ‘historical’
document, setting out a risk assessment pertinent in July 2010, that it
is not my opinion that its release into the public domain would jeopardise
the commercial interests of the University at this point; the situation in
the sector is currently so volatile that a great deal has changed in the
intervening fifteen months.

 

I am not able to provide full versions of the other papers from which I
extracted information, I am afraid, and have set out below the basis for
this decision, on a case by case basis.

 

CL_1

 

This paper, ‘Update on applications for 2011/12’ sets out information
about student applications for entry during 2011-12. Its focus is not any
risk posed by the tuition fee increase, which is why only a small section
was extracted as being relevant to your request; rather, it deals with
matters related to strategic planning and future recruitment exercises at
both undergraduate and postgraduate level. As such, it is my judgement
that the paper contains commercially confidential information (within the
meaning of the exemption set out in Section 43 of the Freedom of
Information Act), the release of which would pose a risk to the University
– in an increasingly competitive environment, such information would be of
a high and current value to our peer and other institutions. I am also
conscious that the University convention is for all Council papers to be
confidential to members of this institution. The information set out in
‘CL_1’ was provided ‘in confidence’ (within the meaning of the exemption
set out in Section 41 of the Freedom of Information Act) on that basis;
the paper’s authors and members of the Committee have a strong expectation
that the information will remain confidential which I must respect. I also
believe that the contents of the paper are covered by the exemption set
out in Section 36 of the Freedom of Information Act which, particularly
when considered in conjunction with recent guidance from the ICO, provides
for a ‘safe space’ for the formulation of policy and strategy, away from
the public domain, as a fundamental part of the ‘effective conduct of
public affairs’; and that if Council members became aware that papers and
discussions were to be made publicly available, it might inhibit debate,
to the detriment of good decision making and governance.

 

CL_3 and CL_3(a)

 

CL_3 has been extracted from the minutes of an ‘away day’ meeting of the
Council, held to discuss and formulate institutional policy and strategy.
CL_3(a) has been extracted from a document brought forward to support that
part of the discussion referred to in CL_3. I am persuaded that the
proceedings and papers of this meeting should remain confidential for the
reasons set out above in relation to document CL_1 – in summary, papers
and minutes of the meeting have been designated confidential to members of
the University; information was therefore provided and discussed in
confidence and with a high expectation of the maintenance of
confidentiality; information provided and discussed is of current and
immediately forthcoming relevance to the University’s competitors; and the
meeting was held in the expectation that it would constitute a ‘safe
space’ for the effective development of institutional strategy and policy,
within the meaning of the exemption set out in Section 36 of the Freedom
of Information Act.

 

CL_4

 

CL_4 has been extracted from a paper concerning recommendations made by
the (internal) Pricing and Bursaries Review Group. This document, dated 31
March 2011, is commercially sensitive (within the meaning of the exemption
set out in Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act) because it deals
with the University’s overall strategic approach to setting tuition fees
(for undergraduates and taught postgraduates) and its package of support
and outreach activities designed to sustain the University’s commitment to
fair access and support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Whilst, in isolation, the relevant extracts are unlikely to damage the
commercial interests of the institution, the release of the paper in its
entirety would be highly likely to do so, as it would provide very
valuable and currently relevant information to the University’s
competitors. As previously, and for the reasons set out above, I also
believe that the exemptions set out under Sections 41 and 36 of the
Freedom of Information Act are relevant in withholding the full text of
this paper.

 

FMG_1

 

FMG_1 is an extract from a paper presented to a very recent meeting of the
Faculty Management Group on the subject of international and home/EU
postgraduate taught fees for 2012 entry. It deals with strategic and
commercial issues that are very much current, and would be of critical
interest to the University’s competitors. The extract provided contains
the only reference to matters relevant to your request. I believe, that
for the reasons already discussed in relation to the Council papers, the
exemptions related to commercial confidentiality, the effective conduct of
public affairs and information provided in confidence (as set out in
Sections 43, 36 and 41 of the Freedom of Information Act) all apply to
this paper. In particular, as this is a strategic planning document, I
think that concerns would be raised amongst FMG members if such
information were to be released into the public domain and that it would
have the effect of inhibiting frankness of discussion and of expression in
committee papers (the so called ‘chilling effect’) to the detriment of
institutional decision making and governance.

 

Institutional risk register

 

The extract from the Institutional Risk Register was provided from the
register as constituted in May 2011. This is a comparatively recent
iteration of the register. Whilst to provide an extract relevant to your
request does not seem, to me, to place in jeopardy the University’s
commercial confidentiality or the effective conduct of its affairs, I feel
that the provision of the entire register would do so – it would mean
placing in the public domain a list of key concerns and strategic plans
for their mitigation that would be of direct interest to competitors. I
feel that the point about potential inhibition of discussion is
particularly relevant here, and that frank estimation of the likelihood
and likely impact of potential risk is a fundamental necessity to good
governance that should be protected from the ‘chilling effect’ identified
above.

 

Senate minutes

 

The extract from the Senate minutes, referred to in my email as Ste_1, was
taken from a meeting held almost one year ago. It is the only reference
within those minutes to institutional risk and, in particular, to any risk
attached to the rise in tuition fees. The institutional convention is that
Senate papers and minutes remain confidential to members of the
University; a convention which is upheld, inter alia, for the reasons set
out above in relation to uninhibited robust debate and the development of
good policy and government. For this reason, I am not able to release a
full set of these minutes. This is compounded by the fact that a wide
range of sections would, even were the minutes not regarded as internally
confidential, require redaction in order to withhold the personal data of
members of the University and information which I believe to be
commercially confidential because of its potential value to other
institutions within the sector. The document would, in any case, thus
provide little or very scant context indeed to the opening remarks made by
the Vice-Chancellor at that meeting in relation to tuition fees.

 

In considering the exemptions that I have applied, I have also, as I am
required to do, considered the balance of the public interest in this
matter. I am satisfied that the greater public interest lies in retaining
a ‘safe space’ in which policy, strategy and ideas can be debated,
developed and tested without inhibition and that in an increasingly
competitive higher education ‘market’ (a situation which can only become
heightened by the rise in tuition fees), it is in the greater public
interest for individual institutions to compete as strongly as possible
with each other in order to drive up standards across the sector and
minimise costs in line with (or, indeed, in order to exceed) rising public
expectations; a realistic approach to issues of commercial confidentiality
 is essential if such competitiveness is to be fostered and maintained.

 

I realise that my approach will come as something of a disappointment, but
I feel that the University has already provided as much information as it
is able to provide at the current time.

 

I hope this is helpful in resolving your query. If you have any questions
about this email, however, please don't hesitate to contact me.

 

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your
request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision,
you should write to Mr D Wardle, The University Complaints Officer, The
University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT.

 

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have
the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a
decision.  Generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have
exhausted the review/complaints procedure provided by the University.  The
Information Commissioner can be contacted at:  Information Commissioner’s
Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Jenny Foggin

 

 

show quoted sections

     Jenny Foggin

    

     Governance and Corporate Affairs Officer

     University of Leeds

     Secretariat

     (0113) 343 1155

     **************************************

    

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