Retention guidance

Information provided here is for general guidance, to which there may be exceptions. Users of the Modern Records Store (MRS) are expected to consult senior management in their area before taking any action based on this guidance.

Your responsibilities

It is the responsibility of all users of the MRS to apply appropriate review and destruction dates for all material they wish to deposit in the store. This is essential in ensuring that the University compiled with its legal responsibilities under legislation such as the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

If you are unsure how long records should be retained, seek advice from Records Management colleagues based within Library Services. They should be able to assist you in determining a suitable retention period for your material. Their records management webpages also provide further information.

Retention periods

These are periods of time, varying from months to permanency, during which a record has to be maintained by an institution. This is usually determined by statute, legal, regulatory or business compliance. Where these do not apply, retention periods should be determined by a best assessment of risks involved in destruction against the costs of retention.

Retention periods can be:

  • A fixed number of years from creation: most financial records of organisations should be kept for the current year + 6 years, an effective total of 7 years. This meets current VAT and Tax regulations. In this example, the destruction date is known, fixed and can proceed without further intervention
  • The life of the transaction plus a fixed period of years: commercial contracts must be maintained for the life of the contract + 6 years. The exact number of years material should be retained will therefore depend upon the period of the contract

Key questions to ask yourself

When determining a retention period for a set of records it is important to consider the following key questions:

  1. Is there a legal requirement to retain the records for a certain period of time?
  2. Is there an operational period of time for which you may need to refer to the records?
  3. After what time is it reasonable to destroy the records?
  4. What would the repercussions be if we could no longer access these records?
  5. Are these records 'vital' for the University?
  6. Do these records have a significant historical value for the University?

Material not suitable for transfer to the MRS

Records which have no significant operational, informational or evidential value requiring their retention should be destroyed once they have served their immediate reference purpose. Material unsuitable for transfer to the MRS may include:

  • Duplicate materials: CC and FYI copies, unaltered drafts of documents
  • Message slips
  • Working papers, where the contents have been written into an official document and are not required to support it
  • Transmittal documents: covering letters, fax coversheets, copies of e-mails, compliment slips and papers which accompany documents but do not add any significant information to them
  • Requests for, and confirmations of, reservations with third parties when invoices have been received
  • Requests for, and confirmations of, reservations for internal services where no internal charges are made
  • Published or reference materials received from other University departments or external agencies, which require no action and are not required for 'record' purposes. Examples may include newsletters, magazines, catalogues and flyers

This list is based on the JISC 'Study of Records Lifecycle'

Retention schedules

A retention schedule lists types of records for which pre-determined review dates have been established. The University recommends that users consult the detailed schedules developed for the Higher Education sector by the Joint Information Systems Council (JISC). These schedules are available both in printed and searchable database format. Click the 'Printable RRS' tab available on the left-hand of the JISC website