Student extenuating circumstances requests due to mental health issues

The request was refused by University College London.

Dear University College London,

I am writing to make an open government request for all the information to which I am entitled under the Freedom of Information Act. In order to assist you with this request, I am outlining my query as specifically as possible. If you need any clarification then please do not hesitate to contact me. Under Section 16 it is your duty to provide advice and assistance and so I would expect you to contact me if you find this request unmanageable in any way.

I am looking for information regarding mental health issues among students, specifically:
a) Since the beginning of the 2009-10 academic year, how many of the students (both undergraduate and postgraduate) who formally requested concessions from the university (i.e. submitted an Extenuating Circumstances form), cited mental health issues as their reason for the request?
b) How many of these mental health-related appeals have been deemed legitimate enough by the university/department for the concessions to be granted?
c) Which mental health issues in particular have been those most cited (e.g. anxiety, depression etc.) in the forms.

To be clear, I recognise that the sensitivity of mental health issues involves a level of confidentiality, but given that I am asking for the data and not the identities of students, I see no reason why this information can not be shared.

I request access to the information in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet format, where each of the 10 full academic years show all of the Extenuating Circumstances forms submitted with those relating to mental health clearly flagged and detailed with the specific issues/illness cited.
I understand that you are required to respond to my request within the 20 working days after you receive this letter. I would be grateful if you could confirm in writing that you have received this request.

I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours faithfully,
Max Copeman

Finance.FOI Requests, University College London

If you have submitted a Freedom of Information request please accept this
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Finance.FOI Requests, University College London

Dear Max

 

We have completed the compilation of information in response to your
request.

 

We can confirm that we do hold information of the description specified in
your request.

 

However, from our preliminary assessment, we estimate that compliance with
your request would exceed the appropriate costs limit under section 12 of
the Freedom of information Act 2000, which is currently set at £450
(equivalent to 18 hours work) by virtue of the Freedom of Information and
Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004.

 

Section 12(1) states that:

 

“Section 1(1) does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request
for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying with
the request would exceed the appropriate limit.”

 

The section 12(1) exemption applies because we estimate that to determine
whether we hold the requested information and then to locate, retrieve and
extract it, would take longer than 18 hours to complete. This is largely
because of the wide range of information you have specified; the broad
temporal scope of the request, ie 10 years’ worth of data; and the way the
information is held here at UCL. All these factors contribute towards
making your request a complex one to meet.

 

Specifically, as we do not collect and compile the data on reasons from
the Extenuating Circumstances forms, we would have to go into each
individual Extenuating Circumstances form to answer this request.
Furthermore, the forms themselves do not include a categorisation or
coding of the reason, only a narrative explanation, so manual compilation
of data on the reasons would involve a level of interpretation that would
considerably add to the time needed. The reasons for an Extenuating
Circumstance are often a complex mix of factors which may include mental
health among others. To look at each form and establish whether it falls
within the scope of your request would take us well over the appropriate
limit of 18 hours, at which point the University is no longer obliged to
process the request. So in accordance with section 12(1) the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (the Act) this email acts as a Refusal Notice. 

 

You are free to use any information supplied for your own use, including
for non-commercial research purposes. The information may also be used for
the purposes of news reporting. However, any other type of re-use, for
example by publishing or issuing copies to the public, will require the
permission of the copyright owner.

 

If you are unhappy with our response to your request and wish to make a
complaint or request a review of our decision, please email
[1][email address]. Emails should include the words ‘Internal
Review’ in the subject and be marked For the Attention of the Chief
Operating Officer, alternatively you should write to:

 

Chief Operating Officer

University College London

Gower Street

London

WC1E 6BT

 

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you may
apply directly to the Information Commissioner at the address given below.
You should do this within two months of our final decision. (Please note,
complaints and requests for internal review received more than two months
after the initial decision will not be handled.)

 

If you have any queries or concerns, please contact me using the details
provided in this email and including the request reference number.

 

Further information on the Freedom of Information Act is available from
the Information Commissioner’s Office:

 

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

SK9 5AF

 

01625 545700

[2]www.ico.org.uk

[3][email address]

 

Kind regards

Penelope Jones

Data Protection and Freedom of Information Adviser

University College London

Legal Services

Data Protection: [4][email address] FOI: [5][UCL request email]

 

References

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