FOI22/23 143 Conditional Offers Meeting

Date published: 10/03/2023

FOI reference: 22/23 143

Date received: 16/02/2023

Date responded: 09/03/2023

Information requested

In a recent FOI response, the government provided me with a document listing the ‘key points’ of a meeting between the SQA, Scottish Government and Universities Scotland on the 3rd of November 2022.

This document states:

“Purpose of the meeting was to discuss the difficulties and challenges encountered this year in relation to the exam results appeals process. Although there was a priority appeals process in place to prioritise those students who had submitted an appeal, the outcome of which would decide whether the student had achieved the results to attend the university of their choice, the deadlines for the appeals results and the start dates of various universities and courses did not align and this caused issues for some students with conditional offers who were not able to secure a place in the current academic year.”

Other parts of the document are redacted, for which I will submit a request for review, but I would like to also submit three further FOI requests.

Please release the following information

FOI request 1: The total number of students with conditional offers who were not able to secure a place [at university] in the current academic year

FOI request 2: Copies of material regarding the meeting from before it took place (this would include communication about the upcoming meeting as well as documents such as briefings and analysis)

FOI request 3: Copies of any material (other than that already released to me) from during or after the event (this would include personal/handwritten notes, any other minutes, recordings, subsequent email exchanges etc)

Response

FOI Request 1. The total number of students with conditional offers who were not able to secure a place [at university] in the current academic year

As required under Section 17 of FOISA, if we do not hold information requested, we must advise you accordingly.

This is not a question that SQA can provide a response to as we do not hold any information on how many students with conditional offers were unable to secure a place at university. However, UCAS may be able to help with your request. The contact details are within the following link.

Freedom of Information | Undergraduate, Postgraduate, Conservatoires, Teacher Training, 16-18 Choices | UCAS

FOI request 2: Copies of material regarding the meeting from before it took place (this would include communication about the upcoming meeting as well as documents such as briefings and analysis)

The information requested is contained within the attached document, FOI22-23 143 Emails. Enclosures 1, 2 and 3 in the document relate to the period prior to the meeting taking place.

The names of non-SQA staff and SQA staff below the level of Head of Service have been redacted under s38(1)(b) as this is considered personal information.

There is also information which is considered exempt under s30(b)(ii) which states:

30        Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs

Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act—

(a) would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the maintenance of the convention of the collective responsibility of the Scottish Ministers;

(b) would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially—

(i) the free and frank provision of advice; or

(ii) the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation; or

(c) would otherwise prejudice substantially, or be likely to prejudice substantially, the effective conduct of public affairs.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, SQA has withheld some information where exemption 30(b)(ii), the free and frank exchange of views applies to certain parts of the information. Where this exemption has been applied is indicated in the documents.

The exemption applies because disclosure would, or be likely to, inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. The exemption recognises the need for individuals to have a private space within which to seek and provide advice and views to and from others before reaching a settled position. If the exempt information was to be released, it would discourage officials from expressing their views and would inhibit the provision of advice and the exchange of views in the future.

This exemption is subject to the public interest test. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there may be an interest in disclosing this information as part of being an open, transparent and accountable public body, and to inform public debate. However, it is considered that there is a greater public interest in allowing a private space within in which officials can provide free and frank advice and views to other officials.

Therefore, taking into account all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public test in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption.

FOI request 3: Copies of any material (other than that already released to me) from during or after the event (this would include personal/handwritten notes, any other minutes, recordings, subsequent email exchanges etc)

The information requested is contained within the attached document, FOI22-23 143 Emails. Enclosures 4, 5 and 6 in the document relate to the period after the meeting.

The names of non-SQA staff and SQA staff below the level of Head of Service have been redacted under s38(1)(b) as this is considered personal information.

Also attached are a letter from the Cabinet Secretary regarding conditional places and a document on priority appeals and conditional HE places.

Documents:

files_ccc/foi-22-23-143-1-20220816-letter-to-us-re-holding-conditional-places-for-students-who-appeal-grades.pdf (94 KB)

files_ccc/foi-22-23-143-0-foi-143-emails.pdf (1.57 MB)

files_ccc/foi-22-23-143-2-priority-appeals-and-conditional-he-places-for-students.pdf (56 KB)