Institutional retention schedule

An institutional retention schedule is currently being drafted to cover all records created and used by the University. The JISC Higher Education Business Classification Scheme and Records Retention Schedules is being used as the basis for the AU schedule, and is being adapted to produce a customised version which accurately represents the institution’s business functions and activities.

What is a Business Classification Scheme?

A Business Classification Scheme is a hierarchical representation of an organisation’s business. It describes an organisation’s business functions and activities, and the relationships between them.

  • Functions are the largest units of business activity. They are the major responsibilities that are managed by an organisation to fulfil its mission or mandate, and its responsibilities to its stakeholders.
  • Activities are the tasks performed to accomplish each function

Records Retention Schedule

The associated HEI Records Retention Schedule is a generic Records Retention Schedule for UK higher education institutions (HEIs). It provides high-level guidance on retention of records which HEIs generate in the course of their work. The schedule covers records which are generated by the business functions and activities in the HEI Business Classification Scheme.

A Records Retention Schedule is a document which sets out the periods of time for which an organisation’s business records are to be retained. The basic components of the Records Retention Schedule are:

  • a description of each category of records which the organisation generates;
  • a retention period for each category of records
  • reasons for retention (e.g. legislative requirements);
  • actions required at the end of retention periods (e.g. destruction);
  • responsibilities for retaining records and for taking required actions at the end of retention periods.

Record Group

These are broad categories of records which are generated by the business activities in the HEI Business Classification Scheme. The structure of the Schedule is the same as that of the Scheme, i.e. Record Groups are listed under the Scheme’s hierarchy of categories and subcategories representing the functions and activities of the University.

Retention Periods

For each category of records, consisting of two elements:

  1. a starting point, or ‘trigger’, for …
  2. a period of time

For example:
Current tax year + 3 years
Termination of contract + 6 years

Some retention periods are prescribed by legislation. Where there is no prescribed retention period, a minimum retention period is recommended, based on:

  • interpretation of relevant legislation, standards, codes of practice and other guidance;
  • knowledge and experience of retention policies and practices in HEIs and other types of organisations;
  • opinions and advice from staff in the relevant fields.

Retention periods are intended to apply to all types of records in all media and formats


If a retention period is prescribed by legislation, the relevant statute or statutory instrument is cited.
If a retention period is recommended in a standard or guidance document, the document is cited.


Notes are provided to clarify the rationale for retention periods, to provide additional information or to highlight related issues.

Example records series

The model scheme has been amended to include a column for example records series. This is intended to provide users with easily recognisable records, particularly useful where the record group may be a little opaque. More examples are likely to be included over time.

Area / person responsible

Also added is a column for the area or person responsible. This shows who is responsible for retaining the University’s core business record in that area, eliminating ambiguity and allowing other departments to safely dispose of duplicates and convenience copies.

Both of the above resources are structured according to function and activity, rather than organisational structure, which is far more susceptible to change over time. This structure also reduces duplication as records relating to the same functions and activities fit to one scheme irrespective of where in the University they are created.

Progress report

To date, the pre-existing schedules relating to Estates, Finance and staff personal files in Human Resources have been revised and expanded, and now fit the new format. Information Services and Human Resources have been fully audited and their records incorporated. The Records Manager is now working through the model scheme function-by-function, according to the level of perceived risk resulting from poor recordkeeping practices in each functional area. As each area is completed in consultation with relevant staff in the University, they will be made available for comment via this web page before final approval by the relevant committee.

Records Retention Schedule