The Freedom of Information Act gives the public the right to access all types of information held by public authorities. The British Council, as a public authority, has to provide information we are asked for, unless there’s a specific reason why not.

The Freedom of Information Act is enforced by the Information Commissioner’s Office, an independent body. 

Any person, anywhere in the world can request information. 

The Act came into full force on 1 January 2005, but it is retrospective - you can ask for information that predates the Act.

How to send us your request

Send us all requests for information in writing. Your request must:

  • include your full name
  • include a correspondence address (this can be an email address or a postal address)
  • clearly describe the information you require.

You can send us your request in any of the following ways:

Additional information

Please provide us with any additional information you think might be helpful in our searches, such as:

  • the subject matter
  • a time frame
  • the type of information you require.

If your request relates to a specific document or report please provide additional information such as: 

  • the date of production
  • the author
  • its likely location
  • the relevant member of staff, office or department. 

When you will hear from us

When we receive your request, we’ll send you an acknowledgement and a unique reference number. Please quote this number on any further correspondence.

Under the Act, we must respond to your request within 20 working days, starting from the day after we receive it. 

We may take longer if we need to ask for clarification of your request, or we are considering whether it is in the public interest to release the information.

Reasons why we may not be able to provide information

Under the Freedom of Information Act, we can withhold information when an exemption applies. Details of these exemptions are available on the Information Commissioner’s website.

Some of the exemptions apply in all circumstances but for others, we have to consider whether it is more in the public interest to release the information than to withhold it.

If we decide that an exemption applies we will tell you why. You can appeal against this decision – details of how to do this will be included in our response.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your request

Internal review

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your request or not happy with the way your request was handled, you can make a complaint to the British Council. 

You should contact us within two months of the date of our response letter.

An internal review will be conducted by a senior member of staff who was not involved with the original request, which will allow them to make an impartial and fresh decision based on all available evidence.

We aim to handle all internal reviews within 20 working days from the date the complaint is received, but there may be occasions when it will take longer.

If you would like to make a complaint please either email or write to us at the address below.  

The internal review may:

  • uphold the original decision; or
  • reverse all or part of the decision; or
  • modify the decision.

Information Commissioner’s Office

If you are not happy with the outcome of the internal review, you have a right of appeal to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which regulates the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The ICO has a duty to investigate complaints from members of the public who believe an authority has failed to handled or respond to a request for information correctly.

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