January 29, 2016, by Paul Greatrix

Sweet spot: on the unquestionable value of FOI

Very special information

There’s a lot of discussion at the moment about universities and the Freedom of Information Act. I’ve previously written here about the dubious value of Freedom of Information requests which included, for example, the following:

  • Number of times named pornographic websites have been accessed from March to August 2015
  • Number of bodies donated to the university for anatomical examination over 5 years
  • Money spent by the University on Christmas Trees, decorations and parties
  • The cost of buffets and banquets
  • The amount University has spent on garments this year
  • A list of items reported lost or stolen in Library
  • Information relating to students and caffeinated beverages
  • Number of ice cleats bought over 3 years and number of accidents due to icy/snowy conditions
I also welcomed the potential change to FOI rules signalled in the Green Paper (although very much in the minority on this).

 

However, I now accept I was wrong. Totally, completely and utterly wrong. Without FOI, this university would never have been asked how many chocolate bars we sold last term. No-one would have thought of the importance of this data to the management and effectiveness of the nation’s universities, and we would all have been poorer (except in terms of time to do less useful things with of course).
 
Chocolate - surprisingly popular

Chocolate: surprisingly popular

So, I am now a massive FOI fan and could not be happier that this FOI request has delivered us one of the best university league tables ever. This is what Tony Blair would have wanted in introducing the FOI Act if only he’d realised it. This is arguably even better than the best ranking ever.

 

But before I give you these sales figures and that all important ranking, why not have a guess about the top selling chocolate product here at the University of Nottingham last term?

 
 

Go on, have a go.

 
 
 
 
 

You know you want to.

 
 
 
 
 

No cheating now.

 
 
 
 
 

Have a guess and then check how close you were.

 
 
 
 
 

Share your guess in the comments at the end.

 
 
 
 
 

Frankly, I do think there are a few surprises in there. Both old school and young pretenders.

 
 
 
 
 

Here you are:
 
 
 
 
 

 

Did you guess it correctly?

 

With thanks to the governance team at the University of Nottingham for their tireless efforts in meeting the demands of this spectacularly enlightened piece of legislation which is in no way a distraction from the core business of higher education.
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