Skip navigation to content

Principles of Records Management


Information is one of the most important resources the University has.  Good management of that information will benefit the University in several ways:

  • Good records management makes record keeping and retrieval easier and more efficient.
  • It helps to ensure that the University is compliant with legislation such as the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
  • It protects the interests of the University and the rights of students, staff and others.

 Records life cycles

A record's life cycle begins with its creation and ends with its disposition.  In between, the record may be referred to, revised, re-filed, and occasionally reorganized. It is generally true, however, that the need to refer to records declines sharply as their age increases. As records reach the end of their active lives, they are disposed of in some manner: they are destroyed, transferred to inactive storage, or transferred to the University Archives.

All records created and maintained within the University will fall into the following categories:

  • Current records - used regularly and frequently in day to day work of the University. Generally will be referred to at least once a month.
  • Semi-current records - not in use as frequently as current records, but are needed for legal or operational reasons to be retained. Required for compliance with e.g. procedural, statutory or financial requirements.
  • All other records - records no longer required for the work of the University should be destroyed or, if identified as having a long term historical, cultural or educational significance, archived.

Records appraisal

Appraisal is the process used to determine value of a record. Once this has been done, a realistic retention period can be assigned to it. Some considerations are:Frequency of use (daily, monthly, yearly).

  • Administrative and operational need served by the record.
  • Legal and fiscal regulations governing retention.
  • Historical significance.
  • Whether it is the record itself or a duplicate.

 Retention Periods

The term 'Retention Period' defines the minimum and maximum periods for keeping a record and the term 'Retention Schedule' defines a matrix listing classes of documents and their Retention Periods.  It may also include the reason for the Retention Period (and indicate the final disposition of each class, for example 'Transfer to Muniments').

Designations used in a Retention Schedule might be:

  • Permanent
  • A specific number of years - often for legal requirements
  • Until superseded - refers to records that are routinely updated and where the previous version has no continuing value
  • Until obsolete - records that become valueless on a non-routine basis

Example Schedule

Record Retention Period Reason for Retention Disposal Notes
Exam pass lists Permanent For confirmation of qualifications and provisions of references
Processing of complaints and appeals  about examination procedures and results

Settlement + 6 years

Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973



JISC recommendations

It is for each organisation to determine it's Retention Schedule but the following has been compiled by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC).

A. Personal data

This list is not exhaustive, and provides guidance as to best practice.

Medical records kept by reason of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999

Type of Record

Suggested Retention Period Reason for Length of Period

Personnel files including training records and notes of disciplinary and grievance hearings

6 years from the end of employment References and potential litigation
Application forms/interview notes At least 6 months from the date of the interviews Time limits on litigation
Facts relating to redundancies where less than 20 redundancies 6 years from the date of redundancy As above
Facts relating to redundancies where 20 or more redundancies 12 years from the date of the redundancies
Income Tax and NI Returns, including correspondence with tax office At least 3 years after the end of the financial year to which the records related Income Tax (Employment) Regulations 1993
Statutory Maternity Pay records and calculations As above Statutory Maternity Pay (General) Regulations 1986
Statutory Sick Pay records and calculations As above Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations 1982
Wages and salary records 6 years Taxes Management Act 1970
Accident books, and records and reports of accidents 3 years after the date of the last entry Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1979; RIDDOR 1985
Health Records During employment Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations
Health Records where reason for termination of employment is connected with health, including stress related illness 3 years Limitation period for personal injury claims
Medical records kept by reason of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999
40 years
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999
Ionising Radiation Records At least 50 years after last entry Ionising Radiations Regulations 1985
Student records, including academic achievements and conduct At least 6 years from the date that the student leaves the institution, in case of litigation for negligence Limitation period for negligence
At least 10 years for personal and academic references Permits institution to provide references for a reasonable length of time
Certain personal data may be held in perpetuity While personal and academic references may become 'stale', some data e.g. transcripts of student marks may be required throughout the student's future career. Upon the death of the data subject, data relating to him/her ceases to be personal data

B. Non-permanent Records

As a rule, the following types of records have no significant operational, informational or evidential value.  They can therefore be destroyed as soon as they have served their primary purpose.

  • Announcements and notices of meetings and other events, and notifications of acceptance or apologies
  • 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, pool cars) where no internal charges are made
  • Requests for, and confirmations of, reservations with third parties (e.g. travel, hotel accommodation, restaurants) when invoices have been received
  • Transmission documents: letters, FAX cover sheets, e-mail messages, routing slips, compliments slips and similar items which accompany documents but do not add any value to them
  • Message slips
  • Superseded address lists, distribution lists etc.
  • Duplicate documents such as:
    • 'CC' and 'FYI' copies
    • Unaltered drafts
    • 'Snapshot' printouts or extracts from databases
  • Personal diaries, address books, etc.
  • Working papers, where the results have been written into an official document and which are not required to support it.
  • 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
  • Published or reference materials received from other parts of the institution or from vendors or other external organisations which require no action and are not needed for 'record' purposes, e.g. trade magazines, vendor catalogues, flyers, newsletters