Library Services


How to use the Retention Schedule

The UCL retention schedule sets out the length of time that documents should be kept and the reasons for retaining. The Schedule applies to all records, irrespective of format and medium.

The schedule therefore covers both paper and electronic records, including emails and audio-visual materials.

The retention schedule is split into eight sections. Listed within each section, are records that UCL creates, receives, or maintains. After the event in the Trigger column, records should be held for the period of time given in the Retention column. Where the retention period is '0', the records should be destroyed immediately following the Trigger event. The abbreviation 'M' is used for months, 'AY' for academic year, and 'FY' for financial year; otherwise, the figure in the retention column indicates calendar years. Where the designation ‘REVIEW’ appears, records should be offered to the Head of Records for appraisal of their archival value.

All records should have an agreed ‘home’. The ‘home’ record will be the version that is maintained for accuracy. The retention period does not apply to duplicate copies of this information. Duplicate copies should be deleted as soon as they have been used.


Why does UCL have a retention schedule?

A retention schedule helps UCL to track and control records and enables the confident disposal of records that are no longer needed. Effective records management ensures efficient use of staff time, space, and equipment. It also provides a basis for ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, such as Freedom of Information Act 2000, clinical trial regulations, and environmental legislation. The retention schedule is also required under Data Protection legislation.

What do the different fields mean?

The Record Group describes the type of record, and the Examples field lists examples of documents contained in that record group. The examples are not exhaustive but are given to help identify the Record Group. Where no examples are listed, it is usually because the Record Group refers to a specific document.

The trigger point is the point at which the retention period begins. For example, if the trigger point is ‘Financial Year’ (FY), the retention period starts from the end of the current financial year. The Retention period shows the amount of time that a record should be kept after this event.

The Citation provides the reason for the retention period.

The notes field is for any other useful information.

How are retention periods set?

Retention periods are based on the length of time a document should be kept in order to satisfy a legal or regulatory requirement, a UCL business need, or an industry standard.

The citation field provides the reason a document is to be retained.

Why should I delete records?

The records retention schedule helps to promote good records management practices which bring many benefits. By deleting obsolete and duplicate records, UCL can ensure that records are accurate and important information can be easily located, aiding effective decision making. Minimising the information we hold also saves space and costs associated with storage – digital or physical.

If the records contain identifiable personal data, then you should ensure the timely destruction or anonymisation of the data once the end of the retention period is reached. Retaining personal data after this time, without good reason, could result in a breach of Data Protection legislation.

What should I do with paper records once they are no longer needed?

When records are no longer in frequent use you should use the schedule to check how long they should be kept. If it is more than a year, you should transfer them to the Records Office for long-term storage. At the end of the retention period, we will contact you to check there are no exceptional reasons for retaining the records beyond this period, and then the records will usually be destroyed.

What is a duplicate record?

Duplicate records are records that exist in addition to the 'home' record. The following are examples of duplicate records:

  • Right-to-work documents for a new employee are scanned and uploaded to MyHr. The scan of the document and any other locally stored copies are duplicates. If any documents are sent as email attachments, the attachments are also duplicate copies.
  • A dataset is downloaded from SITS in order to perform statistical analysis. The data that is downloaded is duplicated, however, the analysis is not.
What should I do with duplicate copies of data?

Duplicate copies of data should only be kept for as long as they are required to fulfill a task. Duplicate copies should not be retained for ease of reference or ‘just in case’ it is required at another time.

It is the responsibility of all staff to delete duplicates that are held on personal drives, within shared drives, or on email (or another communication system) as soon as they are no longer required.

How do I identify the home of data?

Records that have a value, such as those listed on UCL’s retention schedule, should have a designated home. This will usually be a UCL-managed database or storage space. The ‘home’ copy of data will be the single source of truth, which is maintained to be accurate.

How can I manage retention in shared folders?

Retention can be managed by employing common naming conventions within your team, that allow files and folders to be classified by date.

Any duplicate records held in shared folders should be deleted as soon as they are no longer needed.