External mail

Applies to Account Holding Customers only

Postal Services is responsible for handling all outgoing mail for the entire University. We offer a full range of services, from posting a single letter to sending multiple packages internationally by courier, and we have negotiated discounts on many of these services. To get an idea of the cost of sending an item, you can request a quote using our online form.

All items we receive will leave the University on the day we receive them provided they have been prepared as described below.

The sections below give more details on the services we offer and how to use them:

Important courier service information

Since April 2017 the University's courier service suppliers (DHL and Parcelforce) have been required by UK's Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) in respect of 'Denied Parties' legislation to check sender and receiver details against a government database. To this end, we are required by the carriers to supply the full names and email addresses of sender and receivers of all qualifying items.

Remember also that you must supply a telephone number for PO Box based addresses when using courier services.

Pro_Forma Invoices

When sending goods (other than documents) outside the EU, non-commercially, you will need to attach  pro-forma invoices to the packages. Customs services around the world expect to be able to easily interpret these by international convention. It is important that this is done correctly to avoid delays in the progress of your export. We currently use DHL and Parcelforce for these services and the DHL pro-forma template is as good a place to start as any (ProForma).

The arrangements of sender and addressee details are not critical, so it's OK to use standard University headed paper but try to keep the rest of the layout similar. You may need to extend tables beyond a single page for complex exports. It is essential that you produce dedicated invoices for each package in a consignment or that you include a box numbering system in the description section of a single consignment invoice.

How to send external mail

We will only collect and process mail that arrives in the post room in one of our black or green pouches; with a Service/Reference Request sticker; or with mailing docket. Use the docket when you can't fit mail in a pouch, when your pouches are missing, or when we have been asked you to keep something separate from your pouches. Please do this regardless of any other system you currently use to identify your mail. You can print off a copy of the Mailing Docket whenever you need one, request copies via the online postal supplies request form or by contacting us at postroom@reading.ac.uk or on +44 (0)118 378 6530.

Our van collection rounds are designed to accommodate many customer requirements, which is, necessarily, a complex compromise. We can't collect as late as many Departments would like but try to make our latest collections from sites that are furthest from our mail processing base in Whiteknights House. Departments with earlier collections tend to be closer to us, from where it is easier to bring items to us on foot.

Hand delivered items can be processed up to 5pm but we recommend you bring complex to handle items (any tracked service for example) before 4.30pm. If we receive a lot of these late, we may not be able to process all of them before Royal Mail collect. DHL and Parcel Force items should be brought before 4pm as these carriers collect earlier. Phone 6530 before bringing last minute items to check if the carriers have already collected.

General instructions 

To send items by Royal Mail, please stick the relevant sticker (PPI label) on the top right of the envelope, where the stamp would usually go. First class items should then be placed in the black pouch and second class items in the green pouch. Some customers have a barcode label/pouch hybrid arangement to differentiate charging areas. These items should be bundled together with an elastic band with a single barcode label attached to the back of the bottom item before placing in the green or black pouch.

The PPI label varies according to the service being used. See details for each service below.

If you are uncertain of the pouch arrangement in your area contact us at postroom@reading.ac.uk.


  • Always using packaging, envelopes or cartons appropriate to the contents with one eye on weight for price purposes and another on suitability for 'rough' handling protection. Nobody can read 'Fragile' once an item is inside a sack. A heavy sack of variously sized and shaped mail will not respect a 'Please do not bend' instruction. Automated sorting machines may tear to shreds items with loose flaps, exposed staples and inadequate strength envelopes.
  • A rule of thumb for larger items is that you should use the equivalent of the manufacturer's original shipping packaging when you post similar items.
  • Post with PPI labels attached should never be posted in letter boxes - Royal Mail will treat this as fraud. PPI items are only valid mail if they have been counted, categorised and weighed in advance and registered on their servers as a fully documented mailing in advance of their collection from us.
  • Remember Royal Mail have a delivery time expectation for 1st and 2nd class standard letters or 24 and 48 large letters and packets. These are not delivery time guarantess. See the Trackable Requests section below for details of how to use services that do have guarantees.
  • Please ensure you include a postcode in the address. If you are unsure of the postcode, you can use the Royal Mail Postcode Finder. There should always be some method of identifying where to return items to in the event of them coming back. Don't send anything out without a return address on the cover or, at worst, something with your details on the inside.
  • Be careful where you put the return address. The Royal Mail envelope specification will help. Essentially, put it on the back at the top-middle and keep it small. If it has to go on the front then put it on the top-left.
  • You can order more PPI labels using our online postal supplies request form. Please share these rolls in your office. Having a roll of each type and class on each desk is not necessary. We recently disposed of 176kg of unused labels when they were changed.
  • If anything arrives in Postal Services without an identifiable sending Department, if necessary, we will open it to determine who to charge.
  • Do not use ordinary 1st, 2nd, 48, 24 or airmail to send any item that is irrleplaceble, has a deadline or has intrinsic value. See the section Trackable Requests section below for details of how to use more appropriate services .
  • see our UK Mail size guide for determining which category your items belong to before choosing which PPI to affix to them.

Non-Account Mail

All pre-stamped (1st or 2nd class), return to sender, freepost and re-directed mail should be bundled together and posted in the black pouch.

This mail will be treated with equal priority as all other mail arriving in postal services.

This section is not referring to personal mail services, which are available in the basement of Whiteknights House for staff and students.

Standard Letters

maximum size 240mm x 165mm x 5mm, up to 100g

1st and 2nd class services available.

It is vital that you read the General Instructions section above. The size and weight limits above are very strictly enforced by Royal Mail and us. If you want to keep postal charges down use lighter grade paper or fold A4 once and use a C5 envelope rather than folding twice into a DL envelope, which often results in standard letters becoming large letters.

They mean 5mm across its entire area when the envelope is not being temporarily compressed.

Remember, no matter how small or light your item is, a single dimension can move it into the Large Letter or Packet category.


Delivered by RM 2nd class PPIDelivered by RM 1st class PPI






Large Letters

maximum size 353mm x 250mm x 25mm, up to 750g (see our UK Mail size guide )

1st (24) and 2nd class (48) services available.

Use for items heavier or larger than Standard Letters.

See Packets below.


maximum size 610mm x 460mm x 460mm, up to 2000g (2nd class), 20kg (1st class)

(see our UK Mail size guide )

1st (24) and 2nd class (48) services available.

Use for items heavier or larger than Standard Letters and Large Letters.

It is vital that you read the General Instructions section above. The size and weight limits above are very strictly enforced by Royal Mail and us. If you want to keep postal charges down try to be careful with envelope size, weight of paper and arranging of contents. From the 1st of July 2013 you must use the following labels on Large Letters and Packets:

PPI label 24





PPI label 48







It is vital that you read the General Instructions section above. International items to be sent by priority airmail should be placed in the black pouch. Please do not attach any stickers or labels to airmail. Customers in Whiteknights House should bundle items together with an elastic band, then attach a barcode label to the bottom item.

When sending international mail, you must also be aware of the following:

  • The weight limit for airmail is 2kg, or 5kg for books, printed papers etc. that are labelled as such. If you need to send items larger than this, please contact us or request a quote using our online form.
  • Items other than letters being sent outside of the EU may require a customs declaration. Please contact us for advice on this.

See the section on other services for more information on sending parcels by post and courier.

For items going outside of the EU:

There are additional steps for items going outside of the EU. You may need to complete a CN22 customs declaration. Additionally, there are special procedures for items being sent for repair or sale outside of the EU. Please contact us on +44 (0)118 378 6530 or postroom@reading.ac.uk for advice.

Bulk mailings

When sending bulk mailings, please ensure that the items are prepared as follows:

  • First and second class items are separated.
  • All items are the same way up and the same way round.
  • Items should be bundled in equal numbers (where possible) and the number of items in each bundle indicated.
  • Please also keep EU, Rest of Europe and Rest of World desinations in separate bundles.

Please contact Postal Services before sending any bulk mailings larger than a single standard Royal Mail sack as we may need to arrange a special collection. If any sack is too heavy for you to lift with one hand, it is too heavy for us. Carry out a risk assessment to be sure.

Please telephone 7302 as soon as you have prepared any bulk mailing. Please don't wait until the end of the day to post everything. We can usually arrange a special pick up for parts of bulk mailings outside of our normal collection schedule.

Bulk trackable mailings

Bulk postings of Special Deliveries, Signed for, International Signed for, and Airsure require special preparation. Bulk for these purposes refers to more than 8 (eight) items. Follow this procedure:

  1. Telephone 6530 and tell them what you want to do.
  2. They will sent you the necessary number of sequentially numbered carrier labels or you can collect them from us.
  3. Print out a list of of the addresses on the items.
  4. In number order stick one of the peel off numbers from the roll of labels beside each address and stick the remainder of the label to the upper left corner of each item.
  5. Do this separately for each class of item so that you have a separate list for UK Signed For and Airsure, for example. In other words do not mix up overseas and UK or Airsure and International Signed for.
  6. Attach a Service Request label (see below) to the list. Write on it the number of items and service being used along with other required details.
  7. Send the items to us along with copies of the lists.

Please consolidate all such items being posted on your mail account or from your office to mutiple accounts on any single posting and treat them accordingly. Two posting of 7 each of these items is for these purposes a single posting of 14 items.

Items arriving in Postal Services not prepared as above will be held until we have time to process them so that they do not interfere with the normal flow of other Departmental mail or we will return them to sender. The steps requested above will contribute little, if any, overhead to Departmental administration and will ensure that our resources a fairly distributed amongst all our customers. These steps also provide a better audit trail for these items within your Department.

DHL template

Trackable services and special requests

All other services, including Special Delivery, parcel post and courier services must be requested using a Service/Reference Request label (pictured) and by following the procedure below. If you need an idea of cost before posting, you can request a quote using our online form.

 University of Reading Postal Services Service Request label (C)PremiumLabel








The green 21 per sheet labels have now been replaced by the red 40 per sheet simplified design. The 'old' green labels can still be used but new orders will be in the new style. The faint instruction section is designed to be written over with your instructions, telephone number and insurance request as appropriate.

You only need to use these labels when you are sending something by a non-standard service, which is anything that is tracked and/or receives a signature on delivery and may have contents insurance cover. Standard services, not requiring a Service Request label are - UK 1st and 2nd class and airmail to all destinations.

Attach the service request label to the top left of your item.

  1. Pick the name of the service you wish to use from the table below and write this on the label below 'description of service or reference request'. If you don't know which service you should use, you can contact us for advice, or if you need a courier service, tick the courier box and we will select the best service based on the weight and value of the item for next possible working day delivery (varies by destination).
  2. If you would like the item insured, please tick the box and enter the item's intrinsic value.
  3. Enter your contact number and department code (from your pouch) on the label.
  4. If you are requesting 'UK Signed-For', attach a first or second class sticker.
  5. Place the item separately in the appropriate mail pouch or leave it on top of a mail bundle in your external out tray.
  6. To use the label so that the item can be identifiable on your itemised mail statement, write the word 'Reference' followed by any wording you like. You can combine this with a request for any service. Tracking numbers are automatically included in the mailing statement and emailed to the nominated account 'tracking contact/s'.
  7. Similarly, use the label if you just need 'Proof of Posting' but no particular trackable service. We will make the item identifiable on official Royal Mail documentation, equivalent of 'Certificate of Posting' in a Post Office.

Security of Service Request labels

If you need more labels you must use the order form on this site. We will not issue forms in response to telephone calls, emails or personal visits. We will post these to you and you then must store them securely. They are serial numbered and allocated to your mail account. Please don't order several sheets so that everybody in the office or Department can have their own sheet. Please ensure that there is a record of their use in your office posting book. Be careful, when using them at the last minute to post something urgent that you update your posting book.

We photograph all outgoing trackable items, including those with Service Request labels, as evidence that we have processed them as you requested. In the event of somebody forgetting to update your posting book, this will help identify the poster. We will contact you for clarification if we think the requested service is inappropriate in practical posting terms.

We will only guarantee to post, on the day we receive them, items with correctly completed Service Request labels. If gaps in processing allow on the same day we will attempt to contact the telephone number given for clarification where there are errors or omissions on the label.

DHL and Iraq Sanctions

DHL require an Indemnity Form to accompany each item/consignment going to Iraq.

We particularly draw you attention to paragraph 5, which you may want to give some consideration before signing. In this context, it is particularly important that descriptions of package contents are very precise so as not to fall foul of the sanctions paragraph 5 describes. If you are presenting an item to be sent by DHL to Iraq, please complete and sign the indemnity form and attach it to the item/s before sending to us, together with any other normally required documentation, such as Pro-Forma invoices. We will not complete this for you. You must also use this form if you are using your own DHL account to post to Iraq. DHL will return all Iraq bound items without this form. Don't forget you still need to use a Service Request label (see above).

List of 'Special' Services

All services below require a signature on delivery unless stated otherwise. Use the name in the left-hand column on your Service Request label. Take care to read the footnotes where appropriate and don't hesitate to ask Postal Services for clarification if required

Name of service Use for Weight limit1 Trackable? Insurable? Speed
UK Signed For* UK mail that requires a signature on receipt 1kg 2nd class, 10kg 1st class Yes* No Same as 1st class or 2nd class
Special Delivery 9 Time dependent, valuable or irreplaceable item 2kg Yes Yes2 9.00 next working day
Special Delivery 1 Guaranteed next-day UK mail 10kg Yes Yes2 13.00 next working day
International Tracked & Signed

More secure non-UK mail requiring a signature on delivery

2kg or 5kg if parcel contains books only Yes3 Yes4 May be one day faster than airmail
International Tracked  More secure airmail items that don't require a signature on delivery  2kg Yes3 Yes4 May be one day faster than airmail
International Signed More secure airmail items that do require a signature on delivery  2kg  Yes3  Yes4  May be one day faster than airmail
Parcel Force Express 48 UK items over 2kg that require proof of delivery  30kg Yes Yes2 48 hour by close of 2nd business day
Parcel Force Express 24 UK items over 2kg that require proof of delivery  30kg Yes Yes2 24 hour by close of next business day
Parcel Force Express 12 UK items over 2kg that require proof of delivery  30kg Yes Yes2 Noon next business day
Parcel Force Express 10 UK items over 2kg that require proof of delivery  30kg Yes Yes2 10.00 next business day
Parcel Force Express 9 UK items over 2kg that require proof of delivery  30kg Yes Yes2 9.00 next business day
Parcel Force Euro Priority Business European items over 2kg that require proof of delivery  30kg Yes Yes2 2-3 days for most of Europe
Parcel Force Global Express Worldwide items over 2kg that require proof of delivery  30kg Yes Yes2 1-5 days worldwide, depending on distance
Parcel Force Global Priority Worldwide items over 2kg that require proof of delivery  30kg Yes Yes2 Around 2 weeks worldwide
DHL UK High-value items  35kg Yes Yes5 Next day by close of business
DHL6 Urgent non-UK items  35kg Yes Yes 1-3 day service, depending on destination
City Sprint Same-day deliveries throughout the UK by bike or van  Vehicle limit7 Yes Yes Traffic/destination dependent8


* This service should not be used for time dependent, valuable or irreplaceable items. Trackability varies.

  1. It may be more cost-effective to send heavier items on a faster service.
  2. Up to a maximum of £2500 (extra charge), no cover for consequential loss. Saturday delivery option available - doubles cost.
  3. Only guaranteed to be tracked out of the UK. Some countries will pick up the tracking on their own systems.
  4. Limited cover available up to £500. Can be considerably less to some countries.
  5. Only use this service where insurance cover over £2500 is required.
  6. Use this service when you are selling something overseas and require proof of export for VAT purposes. See our page on advice about postal VAT and duty issues.
  7. Very large loads or loads where some items require two people to lift may incur a significant surcharge.
  8. Expensive service, charged by the mile. Small print only guarantees delivery by the close of business. 

Track your package

If you have sent a parcel through Postal Services, you can track your package using the links below:

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Did you know...

most second class post sent on a Friday will arrive the following Monday morning? This fact saved the University of Warwick £10,000 in one year!


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