This section gives some general guidance on records management, including retention and disposal, in keeping with the University Records Management Policy (PDF-131KB).
Definition of records management
'The systematic control, organisation, access to and production of an organisation's information, whether it be on tape, disk, paper or film, from its creation through its use, to its permanent retention or legal destruction.' (The Records Management Society)
What does records management cover?
Records management covers records of all formats and media. This includes paper and computer records; cassette, video and CD records. Records management is needed throughout the lifecycle of a record, and the process begins when the decision to create the record is taken.
Why are records important?
Records are vital for the day-to-day functioning of the University: they support the decision-making; document its aims, policies and activities; and ensure that legal, administrative and audit requirements are met.
Why is records management important?
For records to perform their various functions, some form of management is needed. Management includes control over what is created, the development of effective and efficient filing systems to store the records, and procedures for the retention of those records.
General advice on good records management?
When managing your records you must consider factors such as how your colleagues can access the files if necessary, how to ensure that records are kept for as long as necessary, for instance to fulfil legal requirements, but not too long so as to be a burden on storage. Some general guidelines which may help to meet these and other aims are:
- avoid duplication - create records only where necessary and identify a 'custodian' who will keep the 'master copy' and destroy 'convenience copies' where necessary
- identify existing University policies on record retention (see Guidelines for record retention and disposal)
- name files, electronic and paper, in a way that is meaningful to your colleagues (see Naming of files and folders below)
- avoid long, complicated numbering or coding that may be easy to misfile (see Naming of files and folders below)
- have a filing system that can be used easily by all who have a right to access, while at the same time balancing with appropriate security arrangements such as computer passwords, locked filing cabinets
- store material appropriately, bear in mind that different media may require different conditions
- do not overfill boxes or cabinets and make sure that file titles are easily visible
- sort and files regularly, for example at the end of the year or the completion of a project
- dispose of records in a timely manner and use the confidential waste collection where appropriate. Contact your local IMPS Contact about advice on this.
- avoid storing copies of university information on home PCs. Use VPN and secure drives.
How long should I keep my records?
The length of time records should be kept can vary enormously and is subject to a raft of guidelines and policies, including University policy, government legislation and codes of good practice. For more details on how long to keep specific records, and guidance about setting up and managing local retention schedules, see Guidelines for record retention and disposal.
Some general guidance on the naming of files and folders:
- Name files, electronic and paper, in a way that is meaningful to your colleagues and easy to electronically order and retrieve.
For example, when using dates in the name of a file concerning committee papers consider using the reverse naming convention to make it easier to sort large numbers of files:
'20070401_ISC_agenda' rather than '1Apr2007ISCAgenda'
'20070401_ISC_mins' rather than '1Apr2007ISCmins'
- Avoid long, complicated numbering or coding that may be easy to misfile.
For example, '90890845221lt.doc' is easy to overlook or misfile because it is so generic, the numeric code is not immediately obvious and the term 'lt' may not be identified as shorthand for 'letter'.
- Mirror folder names across your email system and shared drives to help retrieval and aid consistent file naming.
- Use version control for documents to minimise confusion about top copy.