Welcome to MHC!

FOIP FAQ

Current Students

Q: Can a Registrar disclose a student’s address/phone number to a faculty member who is teaching the student or to a Counsellor at the institution?
A: Yes, but only on a “need to know” basis. Section 40(1)(h) allows for disclosure to an employee of the institution if the information is necessary for the performance of his or her duties. The onus is on the employee to show why the disclosure of this information is necessary and a notation about the disclosure should be placed on the student’s file.
Q: Can an institution disclose to a parent or spouse information about whether their child or spouse is enrolled as a student at the institution?
A: Yes. Such disclosure would not be considered an unreasonable invasion of the student’s personal privacy unless the student has asked that this information not be disclosed (sections 40(1)(b) and 17(2)(j)).

Q: Can an institution disclose information about the student’s attendance, progress, grades, payment of fees, etc. to a parent, spouse, employer, or sponsor?
A: No. This is personal information that should not be disclosed without the consent of the student unless it may be disclosed in accordance with section 40(1).

Q: Can an employee of the institution ask a student for personal information about the student?

A: Yes, but only in accordance with sections 33(c) and 34(2) of the Act. The employee would have to show that the information relates directly to and is necessary for an operating program or activity of the institution. He or she would also have to inform the student of this purpose and the use to which the information was going to be put.

Q: Can personal information of students be disclosed to potential employers who are making reference checks?

A: Only if the student consents to the disclosure of opinions about his/her grades, performance, and suitability for the job. This consent may take the form of permission to contact the institution or a named individual as a part of the student’s application for employment.

Q: Can student information be disclosed to the local police?

A: Yes, when the police are investigating a particular incident or the possibility that a criminal offense has been committed, the disclosure of personal information of a student is permitted under section 40(1)(q). The Law Enforcement Disclosure Form in Appendix 5 of the FOIP Guidelines and Practices manual can be used for this purpose. All requests must be forwarded to the FOIP Office.


Q: Can a student, in a FOIP request, gain access to a closed letter of reference of which he or she is the subject of the information?
A: Generally, yes, since the letter would contain personal opinions about the student. In Order 2000-029, the Information and Privacy Commissioner determined that letters of reference written in support of an application for admission to a graduate program should be disclosed because it affected a student’s career opportunities, the student had asked the third parties to write the letters, the third parties may refuse the student’s request, and that the student already knows who the third parties are because they asked the third parties to write the letters in the first place. The Commissioner also found that the letters contained personal information about the student and the third parties but it would not be an unreasonable invasion of the third parties’ privacy to disclose their personal information contained in these letters. He also found that the letters did not constitute privileged information and that section 19 (confidential evaluations) could not be applied as all the criteria of that section was not met. However, under section 19 of the Act, the institution may refuse to disclose evaluative or opinion information collected for the purpose of conferring a benefit (e.g. a scholarship or other award) to an individual if the information was supplied in confidence. This is a narrow exception to disclosure of the information under the Act that would not apply to letters of reference in every situation.


Q: Can a student, in a FOIP request, gain access to an evaluation form completed by an employer who accepted the student on placement?
A: Generally, this would be released to the student since the evaluation form would be part of the student’s educational history and would be the personal information of the student [section 1(n)(vii) and (viii)]. However, if the evaluation contained personal information about other people, this might have to be severed first.

Q: Can the finance department of an institution disclose student information to a collection agency when a student has outstanding accounts with the institution?

A: Yes. Section 40(1)(k) permits disclosure for the purpose of collecting a fine or debt owing by an individual to the institution or to an assignee of the institution. However, the institution should release only the information needed by the collection agency to do its job. This would likely mean name, home address, and telephone number and, if the student is working, business address and telephone number, as well as the amount owing.

Q: Can an institution disclose a student’s timetable without consent?

A: No. A timetable is information about a student’s educational history [section 1(n)(vii)]. It would also contain the student’s name and likely the student’s ID number [section 1(n)(i) and (iv)]. Consent should be obtained before disclosure unless discretion can be exercised under section 40(1).

Q: Can an institution share information about students with its Student Association?

A: Yes, but only to the extent that an agreement between the institution and the Student Association requires information sharing [section 40(1)(e)]. Sharing personal information without an agreement is likely not a consistent use of information collected from students by the institution. However, an institution can’t enter or uphold an agreement that breaches an individual’s privacy under the Act. Other information sharing should only be done with the consent of the student. Consent could be gathered at the time of registration.

Q: Can a student, in a FOIP request, receive a copy of his or her own completed examination papers?

A: Yes, the answers to examination questions are a part of the student’s educational history and are personal information [section 1(n)(vii)]. However, if the examination paper is going to be used again in the near future and the institution can document this fact, then the questions may be severed from the record before releasing the answers to the student [section 4(1)(g) and section 26(b)]. Order F2002-012 contains the first consideration of section 4(1)(g). A school’s English 10-H final exam questions, instructions, and the reading passages on which the exam questions were excluded from the application of the FOIP Act by section 4(1)(g), the exclusion for a question that is to be used on an examination or test.

Q: Students often ask for copies of documents they submitted in support of their application. This could include high school and/or post-secondary transcripts, medical information, or reference letters. Does the College have to supply such copies?

A: Yes. A student has a right to the record even though in some cases the documents are ones they originally submitted. It is not automatic that they get the full record as the institution has to ensure that it does not disclose personal information which would be an unreasonable invasion of the privacy of a third party or confidential information supplied directly to Medicine Hat College.

Q: How should a public body deal with telephone inquiries from students about information about their own record?

A: The institution should satisfy itself of the identity of the person calling, perhaps through questions based on the student record the answers to which only the student is likely to know (e.g. courses taken, name of faculty, student number). Address and phone number are not sufficient proof of identity, as they could easily be known by others.

Q: Can personal information (such as telephone number, timetable, address, etc.) of students or staff be released to a third party?

A: The business address and telephone number of a staff member is not considered an unreasonable invasion of privacy. The timetable of a staff member could be considered to be a part of that person's "employment responsibilities" and would thus also not be considered an unreasonable invasion of privacy. [Section 17(2)(e)] However, it would be prudent to consult with the staff member involved to ensure that such release would not reasonably be harmful to his or her health or safety. [Section 18(1)(a)] Personal information of a student can only be released with the consent of the student or in accordance with Section 40 which gives discretion for disclosure in limited circumstances.

Q: Can student grades be posted using student numbers as identifiers?

A: Grade lists cannot be posted without Medicine Hat College being able to guarantee anonymity. Any number of methods can be used to do this, ensuring that only individual students will be able to find their own grades. If student numbers are used, they should be listed randomly. If a class were so small that grade holders could be easily identified despite any process to conceal identities, then grades would not be posted.

Q: Can we release information on former students/graduates?

A: Yes. Section 40(1)(b) permits disclosure of personal information if it would not be an unreasonable invasion of a third party's personal privacy. Under Section 17(2)(j), it would not be considered an unreasonable invasion of a former student's privacy to disclose that he/she had been enrolled at Medicine Hat College or in a particular program; that he/she had received an honour or award (including a degree, diploma, or certificate) granted by Medicine Hat College; that he/she had attended or participated in a public event or activity related to Medicine Hat College; or that he/she had graduated from Medicine Hat College. However, this type of information should not be disclosed if the former student or graduate has asked that the information not be disclosed [Section 17(3)].

Q: Can we continue to submit to the media the hometowns of our graduates without their consent?

A: No. Medicine Hat College can disclose the names of graduates to the media. Under Section 40(1)(b) and Section 17(2)(j), the disclosure of this information would not be considered an unreasonable invasion of the graduates' personal privacy. However, disclosing the names of their hometowns would require the graduates' consent. Consent for publication can be obtained at the time students apply for graduation.

Q: Can the Registrar release a student's address/phone number to a faculty member who is teaching the student?

A: This information would only be supplied on a "need to know" basis. Section 40(1)(g) allows for disclosure to a faculty member if the information is necessary for the performance of his or her duties. The onus is on the faculty member to show evidence that this information is necessary.

Q: Can a faculty member ask students for personal information?

A: Yes, but only in accordance with Sections 33(c) and 34(2) of the Act. The faculty member would have to show that the information relates directly to and is necessary for an operating program or activity of Medicine Hat College. He or she would also have to inform the student of this purpose and the use to which the information was going to be put. The faculty member should discuss this with the FOIP Coordinator prior to asking for the personal information as it may be necessary to keep a record of the purpose and use of the information and report this to the Minister of Labour.

Q: Can the Registrar release a student's phone number to a Medicine Hat College counsellor?

A: This information would only be supplied on a "need to know" basis. Section 40(1)(h) allows for disclosure to an employee of Medicine Hat College if the information is necessary for the performance of his or her duties. The onus is on the counsellor to show evidence that this information is necessary.

Q: Can Medicine Hat College collect third party information from students (e.g. parents' date of birth/education)?

A: Section 34 of the Act governs the collection of personal information. In order for Medicine Hat College to collect such information about third parties, it would have to be able to prove that the information was necessary to determine or verify the eligibility of the student to participate in a program or receive a benefit, service, or product from the College. [Section 34(1)(k)] If it cannot do this, then the parents would have to authorize collection from their son or daughter, or the information would have to be collected directly from the parents (e.g. credit card information). Medicine Hat College should take care to collect only that information which is related directly to and necessary for student admission and attendance at the College.

Q: Do the personal notes on an examination paper belong to the student who fills in the spaces between questions with their answers?

A: Yes, personal information includes an individual's personal views or opinions, except if they are about someone else. [Section 1(1)(n)(ix)] If the examination paper is going to be used again in the near future and Medicine Hat College can document this fact, then the questions may be severed from the record before releasing the personal information to the student. [Section 4(1)(d) & Section 25(b)]

Q: Can students access and receive copies of their own previously completed examination papers?

A: Yes, the answers to examination questions are a part of the student's educational history and are personal information. [Section 1(1)(n)(vii)] If the examination paper is going to be used again in the near future and Medicine Hat College can document this fact, then the questions may be severed from the record before releasing the answers to the student. [Section 4(1)(g) and Section 26(b)]

Q: Can information be given to potential student employers who are making reference checks?

A: No, Section 40 does not contain discretion for such disclosure. The student would have to consent to release of information. This consent may take the form of permission to contact Medicine Hat College or a named individual as a part of the student's application for employment. If this is the case, Medicine Hat College should require a copy of the application or that part of it which authorizes the potential employer to seek information. Failing that, specific written consent is needed from the student and Medicine Hat College should disclose only factual information or opinion information that the person answering the request is qualified to disclose. This information should be the minimum required to meet the request of the employer.

Q: Should students be allowed to access evaluation forms completed by employers who accept students on placement?

A: Yes, these evaluation forms are a part of their educational history and are the personal information of the student. [Section 1(1)(n)(vii) and (viii)] The evaluation may contain personal information about other people and this may have to be severed before release of the student's own information. Generally speaking, the name of the evaluator should also be provided to the student because that person would have completed the form as a part of his or her employment responsibilities and disclosure of the name would not be an unreasonable invasion of privacy. [Section 17(2)(e)]

Q: Can a professional body or local apprenticeship council force their clients to sign a blanket release so that they can have access to College records on students they sponsor or co-ordinate at the College?

A: The relationship between the student and his or her sponsor is not the concern of Medicine Hat College. Medicine Hat College has the discretion to disclose only specific information that the student has consented to release to the sponsor. [Section 40(1)(d)] This consent has to be in writing and must specify to whom the personal information may be disclosed and how the personal information may be used. [FOIP Regulation, Section 6] Medicine Hat College should work with sponsoring organizations by providing a suitable consent form that they can use with sponsored students.

Q: Is it a misuse of information when a student obtains an evaluation provided by an employer and then uses it as a reference? Should the employer sign an appropriate waiver?

A: No, the information contained in the evaluation is the personal information of the student and can be used by the student for any purpose. However, Medicine Hat College did not collect the evaluative material for this purpose and, if it wishes to ensure that it is not used for this purpose, it can include a statement on the evaluation form that the employer completes, and make it clear to the student that it is not being disclosed for that purpose. This will not prevent the student using it as a reference.

Q: Is the student entitled to view evaluative opinions of the selection committee(s) for admission/awards?

A: Yes, generally speaking evaluative opinions are the personal information of the person being evaluated. [Section 1(1)(n)(viii) and 6(1)]. If the committee consists solely, or has a majority of Medicine Hat College staff, then Section 24(1)(a) may be used to withhold advice, but cannot apply to a statement of the reasons for a decision that is made in the exercise of a discretionary power. [Section 24(2)(b)]

Q: Can the Registrar confirm that a student is registered in a specific program at Medicine Hat College in response to a third party inquiry?

A: Yes, unless the student whom the information is about has requested the information not be disclosed [Section 17(3)], it would not be an invasion of a third party's personal privacy to disclose enrolment in a school of an educational body or in a program offered by a post-secondary educational body [Section 17(2)(j)(i)]. There may also be cases where disclosure is permitted under Section 40 such as for the purpose of complying with another Act, to determine eligibility for a program or benefit or to assist in a law enforcement investigation.

Q: Is it permissible to post in the halls of Medicine Hat College the student names and numbers of those who are "eligible to graduate" to ensure that students know whether or not they have successfully completed or are registered in all the courses required for graduation?

A: No, lists cannot be posted without Medicine Hat College being able to guarantee anonymity. Any number of methods can be used to do this, ensuring that only individual students will be able to find their own information. If student numbers are used, they should be listed randomly. Administrative convenience is not an excuse for disclosing information that needs to be protected.

Q: If high school grades in selected prerequisite subjects become part of Medicine Hat College record or transcript through the admission process, can they be released to students or to third parties at the student's request?

A: Yes, the student is entitled to access to any personal information about him or herself that is held by Medicine Hat College, even if it is information the student supplied. Once the information is entered into Medicine Hat College records and is used to make a decision about admission, it must be retained for at least one year and is in the custody and control of Medicine Hat College. Release to third parties must be with the student's written consent specifying to whom the information can be disclosed and how it may be used. [FOIP Regulation, Section 6(b)]

Q: Can the Registrar refuse to release grades, transcripts, diplomas, etc. to students delinquent in tuition fee payments, library books, or other equipment return?

A: Yes, the Registrar can continue this policy unless the student makes a formal FOIP request. Under FOIP, Medicine Hat College cannot withhold personal information from an applicant that the information is about based on money owed to Medicine Hat College by the applicant. Section 6 provides an applicant with a right of access to any record in the custody and control of Medicine Hat College, including a record containing personal information about the applicant. If a formal FOIP request is made, Medicine Hat College is required to provide a statement of grades to the student. However, it can refuse to issue an official transcript or diploma.

Q: If written final exams have to be retained for one year after they are written, can students appeal their final grades up to one year after the exam in written?

A: No, the requirement to retain final exams for a period of one year is to allow an individual to examine this record and see the information used to make a decision about him or her. It does not affect Medicine Hat College's policy on appeal of grades.

Q:To what extent is the sharing of information about students with student societies included under the term consistent use?

A: Yes, but only to the extent that an agreement between Medicine Hat College and the Student Association requires information sharing [Section 40(1)(e)]. Sharing personal information without an agreement is likely not a consistent use of information collected from students by the institution. However, an institution can't enter or uphold an agreement that breaches and individual's privacy under the Act. Other information sharing should only be done with the consent of the student. Consent could be gathered at the time of registration.

Q: Is there a limit on how many additional copies of unofficial transcripts a student can ask for or can Medicine Hat College charge for re-issuing the statement?

A: Medicine Hat College is only required to provide one copy of any record in response to a request for personal information. However, a student can submit the same request a second or subsequent time. If the FOIP Coordinator feels that the student is abusing the right of access by making repetitious requests for the same information, she can ask the Commissioner for permission to disregard such requests. [Section 55] If Medicine Hat College policy requires that a fee be paid for second and subsequent copies in order to defray the photocopying costs, then this policy takes precedence over a request under the Act. [Section 3(a)]

Q: How should a public body deal with telephone inquiries from students requesting information about their own record?

A: Medicine Hat College should satisfy itself of the identity of the person calling, perhaps through questions based on the student record, the answers to which only the student is likely to know (e.g. courses taken, names of faculty, student number). Address and phone numbers are not sufficient proof of identity as these could easily be known by others.

Q: In dealing with appeals, complaints, and requests for refunds, information must sometimes be obtained on students' attendance and performance and student loan information. Can this collection continue under the Act?

A: Yes, Section 40(1)(h) permits disclosure to an employee of Medicine Hat College in order for that person to perform their duties. The disclosure should be limited to the information needed to do the job and only provided to the individual who has a need to know that information.

Q: Can Medicine Hat College use the SIN for student identification?

A: No. The only circumstance where a SIN should be collected is where the institution has a reporting requirement to the Federal Government, or where legislation authorizes the collection for another purpose. Before collecting SIN numbers the FOIP Coordinator at Medicine Hat College should be consulted.

Q: What responsibility does Medicine Hat College have to ensure that the student has actually signed consent to release personal information?

A: Generally, Medicine Hat College will assume the consent is valid. It should ask for a copy of the consent statement and identification of the person holding the consent, and should keep these on file with a notation of disclosure. If there is any reason to suspect that the consent may not be valid, the student should be contacted to confirm consent.

Former Students


Q: Can the College disclose information on former students/graduates?

A: Yes.Section 40(1)(b) permits disclosure of personal information if it would not be an unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy. Under section 17(2)(j), it would not be considered an unreasonable invasion of a former student’s personal privacy to disclose that he/she had been enrolled in the institution or in a particular program; that he/she had received an honour or award (including a degree, diploma or certificate) granted by the institution; that he/she had attended or participated in a public event or activity related to the institution (e.g. an open house, sporting event or competition, fundraising activity or cultural event); or that he/she graduated from the institution. However, this type of information should not be disclosed if the former student or graduate has asked that the information not be disclosed [section 17(3)].

Q: Can the College disclose the hometowns of its graduates to the media?
A: No. The institution can disclose the names of graduates to the media. Under sections 40(1)(b) and 17(2)(j), the disclosure of this information would not be considered an unreasonable invasion of the graduates’ personal privacy. However, disclosing the names of their hometowns would require the graduates’ consent. Consent for publication can be obtained at the time students apply for graduation.

Q: Can an institution disclose names of graduates to its Alumni Association or to its Fund Development Office?

A: Yes, in accordance with sections 39(2) and (3) and 40(2). Under section 39, unless an individual has requested that his/her personal information not be disclosed, an institution may disclose the names of graduates to its Alumni Association for alumni purposes (e.g. providing information about discounted services; benefits; travel, educational or cultural events; seeking feedback on institutional issues). Under section 39(2), but always subject to sub-section (3), an institution may also use personal information in its alumni records for the purpose of its own fundraising activities. Under section 40(2), an institution may disclose personal information in its alumni records for the purpose of its own fundraising activities if the institution and the person or entity to whom or which the information is disclosed enter into a written agreement that requires the institution to stop using an individual’s personal information at the individual’s request.


Q.  I have more questions, how can I get answers?
A. Contact the FOIP Coordinator at foip@mhc.ab.ca.