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Durham University

Information Governance

Records Retention Schedule

This Records Retention Schedule is the control document that sets out the periods for which Durham University’s business records should be retained. It also specifies what should be done with the records once their respective retention periods are reached. Application of this schedule will give employees confidence that they are managing the University’s records in compliance with:

  • Business needs.
  • Legal requirements.
  • Best practice.

Systematic and timely records disposal in line with this schedule is fundamental to the University’s compliance with the following information access legislation:

  • General Data Protection Regulation 2016
  • Data Protection Act 2018
  • Environmental Information Regulations 2004
  • Freedom of Information Act 2000

Efficient records disposal also enables better management of current records requirements and therefore better everyday working practices for employees.

This schedule is not department or section based. It adopts a functional approach, as recommended by the International Standard on Records Management (ISO 15489:2001). It lists the broad business functions of the University and then the records series that those functions create. A number of the functions, such as finance and personnel, may be carried out in more than one section of the University.

The schedule states recommended retention periods primarily based on relevant legal requirements. In some instances, employees may be justified in applying longer retention periods where other business factors require consideration, such as an audit investigation or a court case.

The schedule begins with a general section addressing the records series likely to be common to more than one of the University’s business functions, before listing the records series applicable to each specific function.

The documentary sources for retention periods are cited. Those derived from legal requirements should be regarded as minimum retention periods.

Retention periods and disposal actions relate to the master record. Duplicate copies should be kept for reference only and no longer than the retention period of the master record, then confidentially destroyed.

Once retention periods have elapsed, records should no longer be required for business purposes and should either be

  • Destroyed confidentially.
  • Archived to the Archives and Special Collections department of the University Library at Palace Green, Durham (sometimes referred to as the 'University Archive').


Retention periods are expressed as a formula:

Starting point (usually the age of the record) + Number of years to be kept.

The starting point is sometimes expressed using the following abbreviations:


Current Leave Year (End of).


Current Financial Year (End of).


Current Tax Year (End of).

Disposal actions are expressed as follows:


Transfer to Archives and Special Collections (sometime referred to as the 'University Archive').


Delete the electronic record (and any duplicates) in a manner that prevents it from being recreated. Shred the paper record (and any duplicates) so that it cannot be recreated.


Consider whether all/part/none of the record series has archival significance. Where part of the series is significant, weed in agreement with the University Archive and/or Information Governance Unit. Transfer the record or any remaining part to the University Archive.

The full University Records Retention Schedule, can be viewed or a specific chapter can be selected using the links below.
13. Audit
14. Legal