Records management guidelines and procedures

The following is a set of broad guidelines on dealing with records, their creation, management, retention and destruction, at the University of Birmingham.

Basic identification

Good records management will start at the moment the record is first created with e.g. the assignment of some sort of title, sequence identifier, date and categorisation. For example:

Woodland Studies Research Committee, WSRCM 07.03.01, 1 March 2007, Minutes of Meetings

Draft versions of such documents also need an identifier to indicate their status, but once the final version receives the approval of the appropriate ‘authority’ then that becomes the permanent record for retention and subsequent disposal. (After that, the draft versions need not be kept.)

Transitory records

In most cases the following types of records will have no significant operational, informational or evidential value requiring their retention and may be destroyed as soon as they have served their immediate reference purpose. Files should be regularly reviewed and weeded of such material.

  • Announcements and notices of meetings and other events including notifications of acceptance or apologies.
  • Duplicate material such as:

     - CC & FYI copies

     - Printouts or extracts from a database

     - Unaltered drafts of documents

     - Day Files' (chronological copies of correspondence)

  • Message slips. (Note that some might need to be kept permanently as evidence of e.g. the date and time that a person called.)
  • Published or reference materials received from other University offices or external agencies which require no action and are not required for ‘record’ purposes. These may include newsletters, magazines, catalogues and flyers.
  • Personal diaries, address books etc
  • Requests for stock information such as maps and travel directions, brochures etc.
  • Requests for, and confirmations of, reservations for internal services (e.g. meeting rooms, car parking spaces) where no internal charges are made.
  • Requests for, and confirmation of, reservations with third parties (e.g. travel, hotel accommodation, restaurants) when invoices have been received.
  • Stocks of in-house publications which are obsolete, superseded or otherwise useless e.g. magazines, marketing materials, prospectuses, catalogues, manuals, directories, forms and other material produced for wide distribution. NOTE: Ensure at least two copies of such publications are retained within the creating section for consideration for permanent retention.
  • Superseded address lists, distribution lists etc.
  • Transmittal documents such as letters, fax coversheets, emails, routing slips, compliment slips etc which accompany documents but do not add any significant information to them.
  • ‘Working papers’, where the contents have been written into an official document and are not required to support it.

For further discussion of how to deal with Transitory Records see the JISC InfoNet HEI Records Management document ‘Guidance on Managing Transitory Records’(January 2007) (PDF - 60KB)

The record lifecycle

As new records and documents are added to the appropriate sequence, there are certain decision points that occur in the record lifecycle:

(a) at what point does the record cease to be regarded as a current working document and is transferred to a ‘non-current storage facility’?
(b) at what point in the record’s lifecycle is its retention reviewed?
(c) is there a point at which the record can be destroyed and should it be destroyed or retained for inclusion in the University’s permanent archive?

The decision points and the actions that follow will depend upon:

(a) the nature of the record and the business needs of the unit and the University;
(b) the guidelines set out in any local Retention and Disposal Schedules;
(c) the guidelines set out in the model Retention and Disposal Schedules for the sector;
(d) local practice based on experience.

Using retention and disposal schedules

The University currently recommends using the model schedules produced by JISC which are based on a ‘functional model’ of the business of the University::

Higher Edcuation Business Classification Scheme and Records Retention Schedules

These schedules look at records in terms of business purpose e.g. Student Administration & Support, Finance, Personnel. Therefore, in storing and then reviewing any sequence of records, it is best to identify the sequence as one that relates to a particular function or sub-function within the Schedule, e.g. if an academic department has a staff-student liaison committee, the papers associated with that group would be viewed as:

Student Administration & Support: Student Liaison – Staff / Student bodies – meeting papers

The papers could be expected to be kept in the School or Department and the retention advice is:

‘Retain in School / Department for 3 years then can destroy’.

It should be emphasised that the Schedules constitute advice to the manager of the records, not a direct instruction. If there is any uncertainty, then the manager should consult the ‘subject experts’ or the Head of Special Collections (contact details on other web pages) for further advice.

By the very nature of Retention and Disposal Schedules it is essential that records are dated and that they are filed or stored in some manner that identifies the date or (at a minimum) the year of creation.

There can be some confusion as to whether ‘year’ relates to the UK fiscal year, the University financial year, the ‘academic’ year or the calendar year. Some record sequences relate directly to an academic year whether that starts on 25 September or 28 September or 1 October (depending on which date is a Monday).

In the event of the schedule stating that the (academic year) records can be disposed of after (for example) three years it is advisable to take this to be ‘after the end of the calendar year, three years after the end of the academic year’.

For example, a record created on 5 November 2011 in the academic year 2011/12 with a ‘three-year retention period’ could be considered for disposal after 31 December 2015.

Guidance for committee records

Although the schedules in use now are set out by function, in many cases the records will already be stored in a system according to generic type. One of the most often used (and broadest) type is that of ‘Committee Records’.

Records of University committees and working groups typically document University decisions and policy formulation and will usually have long term value for future reference or historical purposes. The following constitutes general guidance to be considered before ensuring that the specific guidance based on functionality (as given in the schedules) is taken into account.

Record Type: Internal Committees & Working Groups

Agendas, papers, minutes and selected correspondence documenting the activities and decisions of the University committees and working groups.

Retention period

For Master copies, retain in office for current year plus 3 years, then assess for University Archive value and consider retaining permanently.

For Duplicates, retain in office for current year plus 1 year, then destroy.

Record type: External Committees & Working Groups

Agendas, papers, minutes and selected correspondence documenting the activities and decisions of external committees, working groups or similar bodies of which University staff are members.

Retention period

Life/membership of Committee plus 3 years then assess for University Archive value and consider retaining permanently or destroying.

Research records

Records relating to research can be considered as falling into two broad categories:

  • those records that deal with the administration of the research e.g. grant applications, personnel files, management committee papers, etc;
  • those that relate to the subject of the research e.g. survey data, measurement data, clinical trials records, etc.

In many cases, the funding body, whether a Research Council or another, will have a set of standard guidelines in relation to the creation and retention of records associated with the research.

For example, in order that research findings can be verified or compared with later research, it may be that the raw data has to be kept accessible to other researchers for 10 years from the date of the first publication of the results.

For basic guidance on how to deal with Research Records see the JISC InfoNet HEI Records Management document ‘Guidance on Managing Research Records’(January 2007) (PDF - 103KB).

Student records

The responsibility for maintaining the definitive ‘student record’ at the University is vested in Academic Services. However, schools and departments within Colleges, also maintain records pertaining to students during the duration of their studies.

Such record sequences are dealt with in the Retention & Disposal Schedules, but for further discussion of how to deal with Student Records see the JISC InfoNet HEI Records Management document ‘Guidance on Managing Student Records’(January 2007) (PDF - 87KB) .

The Modern Records Store

Special Collections operates a Records Store on behalf of the University. This is intended to store those sets of paper records that are no longer considered as ‘working documents’ but have yet to reach their recommended destruction date. To arrange for the transfer of new records to the Store (or subsequent recovery), please see the Modern Records Store web page first, then contact Special Collections on ext 45838 or ext 45839, or send an email to special-collections@bham.ac.uk

Disposal of confidential waste

Certain records that have been deemed ‘confidential’ throughout their useful working life, need to be destroyed in such a way that they cannot be recovered afterwards.

At the University of Birmingham, destruction of confidential waste is dealt with by Hospitality and Accommodation Services through a private contractor and the issuing and collection of confidential waste bags is managed through Portering Services.

In order that the originators retain responsibility for the safe keeping of confidential waste until it can be transported to the confidential waste store, the following procedures will be followed:

  1. A supply of self-seal sacks are stored and issued by the Porters on request by completing the Confidential Waste Removal Online Booking Form or telephoning ext 45639
  2. Sacks will be supplied to Budget Centres as required.
  3. It is the responsibility of the originators of the waste to ensure that bags are properly sealed and kept in a secure environment (i.e. not in corridors).
  4. Collection can be arranged by using the Confidential Waste Removal Online Booking Form on the staff intranet. If you have difficulty using this, contact the Transport & Portering Services on ext 45639.
  5. The Porters will issue a receipt to the originator for the number of sacks collected. Unsealed sacks will not be collected.
  6. The waste will then be stored in a locked room until the shredding company collect it for disposal.
  7. The guaranteed destruction of confidential electronic records is a specialist activity. Requests for such destruction should be made to the IT Service Desk
    Stack of papers