Inspection access to documents containing commercially sensitive information

R and A University

The applicant sought access to her completed exam papers and the answer guide for subjects which she did not pass. The University refused to grant access to the parts of the marked exam papers showing the questions and the entire answer guide. The University submitted that its exam questions and answer guide formed part of its intellectual property and were of commercial value to the University.

On external review, the applicant explained to OIC that she was seeking to gain a greater understanding as to why she had not passed the exams. OIC identified that the applicant’s interests may be met by allowing her to inspect the documents and therefore, sought the University’s views on this option. Following negotiations, the University agreed to allow the applicant to inspect the exam papers and answer guide at OIC premises, under OIC supervision. After the inspection, the applicant expressed to OIC that she was able to understand where she had made mistakes in the exam and agreed to resolve the review on that basis.


While information may be exempt or contrary to the public interest, making documents available through inspection may satisfy an applicant’s interests while safeguarding the sensitivity of the information.