Question 1. What Is A Record?
Records are the outputs that detail each and every business and administrative transaction of the University and contain information about our students, members of staff and all our external contacts. They are the essential resource for the University’s effective continuation. They also form the University’s collective memory that must be available beyond the memory or working life of any single member of staff.
A document in itself is a type of record, but so is the information that describes the document when it forms a separate entity. For example, an entry in a library catalogue (whether on card or in a computer database) which records the author, title and location of the book, is as much a record as the book itself.
Question 2. What Is Records Management?
- Records management is a process for the systematic management of all records and the information or data that they contain. Traditionally these were held on paper, or more recently on microfilm or fiche, but are now held increasingly within electronic systems.
- The core concept is the life cycle of information, which sees information having a series of phases from creation to final disposition either through a controlled destruction process or being added to the long-term or permanent record (the archive) of the University.
- Records Management incorporates the practice of identifying, classifying, providing access to, archiving, and sometimes the controlled destruction of records.
Question 3. Why Is Records Management Important?
Without institution-wide records management procedures, each College, School, Department or Unit of the University would continue to follow their own practices. Whilst each set of practices may seem to be based upon a common sense approach, an uncoordinated approach to managing the University’s records could lead to:
- Failure to comply with legislation
- Risks to institutional accountability
- Inefficient use of staff time
- Poorly informed decision-making
- Loss of institutional memory
By following the procedures and guidelines issued centrally, the benefits likely to be achieved include the following:
Needed documents and information can be easily accessible:
A standard method of describing and arranging records across the University will assist in document and information identification and retrieval for purposes from audits and legislative compliance, to reuse of management information.
Reduced need for excessive equipment for storing records:
An appropriate Retention and Disposal Schedule will set out standard time periods for which University records should be retained. By destroying records no longer required, the need for equipment for the storage of paper or electronic records is reduced.
The University’s cultural history is safeguarded:
The Retention and Disposal schedules also enable vital records required for longer time periods, and those of archival value, to be identified and safeguarded.
Increased productivity and reduced time spent searching for needed documents:
Administrative and clerical staff spend a significant amount of their time searching for information or documents created within their own office or elsewhere within the University and a clear set of RM procedures will improve the efficiency of that process.
Accountability throughout the Records Life Cycle:
Records testify to the authority behind the decision making processes of the University and provide audit trails when both internal and external audits are required.
Question 4. How Does Records Management Relate To The Freedom Of Information Act?
Poor records management is not of itself a breach of the Act, but the Act did stress that good records management is essential to the process of responding to requests. The Act sets out strict timetables for compliance with a request, so it makes sense to have systems in place that help to ensure such timetables are adhered to with minimum effort.
If the University fails to satisfy an enquiry either in what it supplies or how it deals with the enquirer, then appeals can be made to the Information Commissioner who can impose requirements on the University. Good records management will assist in avoiding such circumstances arising.
Question 5. How Does Records Management Relate To The Data Protection Act?
The Data Protection Act applies to personal information relating to living individuals. The gathering, storage and processing of that data has to conform with a number of principles including its gathering and retention for specific purposes, the secure retention of the data, the ability to recover it when a Data Subject submits a request, and ensuring that it is kept for no longer than is necessary for the purpose for which it is held. Good records management policies and procedures will ensure that there is compliance with the Act.
Question 6. What Is A Records Retention And Disposal Schedule?
A records Retention and Disposal Schedule is a control document that sets out the periods for which an organisation’s business records should be retained to meet its operational needs and to comply with legal and other requirements. It forms a key element of the University’s records management policy. It consists of timetables that set out when individual or groups of records are due for review, transfer to an archive and/or destruction.
In response to compliance with current legislation eg the Freedom of Information Act 2000, they make it easier to establish whether or not a record exists when a request is received. Using such schedules will also give the public confidence that the University has adequate procedures for identifying records that have been requested.
Question 7. Why Is A Records Retention And Disposal Schedule Necessary?
A records Retention & Disposal Schedule is an essential component of an efficient and effective records management system. Properly developed and consistently implemented, a Records Retention & Disposal Schedule protects the interests of the organisation and its stakeholders by ensuring that business records are kept for as long as they are needed to meet operational needs and to comply with legal requirements, and are then disposed of securely.
Question 8. What Does A Records Retention And Disposal Schedule Cover?
A records Retention & Disposal Schedule provides generic guidance on retention of records which are commonly generated in the course of:
- core work
- developing relationships with stakeholders
- the management of the institutions themselves as corporate bodies
It covers key groups of records generated by the common business functions and business activities. In the case of the University these will include Student Records, Financial Records, Personnel Records, Health & Safety Records, etc.
The Schedule being used for Records Management at the University is based on research and consultation with a wide range of institutions. However, it is not intended to be either totally prescriptive or exhaustive. A certain amount of individual judgement will still have to be made in dealing with some records.
Question 9. How Are ‘retention Years’ Measured?
- By the very nature of Retention & Disposal Schedules it is essential that records are dated and that they are filed or stored in some manner that identifies the date or (at a minimum) the year of creation. The Schedules will then advise as to how many ‘years’ after that date the records should be retained for before disposal. For example:
- Current academic year + 5 years OR Life of course + 1 year
- There can be some confusion as to whether ‘year’ relates to the UK fiscal year, the University financial year, the ‘academic’ year or the calendar year. Some record sequences relate directly to an academic year whether that starts on 25 September or 28 September or 1 October (depending on which date is a Monday).
- In the event of the schedule stating that the (academic year) records can be disposed of after (for example) three years it is advisable to take this to be ‘after the end of the calendar year, three years after the end of the academic year’.
- For example, a record created on 5 November 2005 in the academic year 2005/06 with a ‘Current academic year + 3 years’ retention period could be considered for disposal after 31 December 2009.
Question 10. Should Electronic Records Be Treated Any Differently To Paper-based Records?
No. The principles underlying records management – creation, retention, identification, and retrieval of records – apply equally to both electronic and paper records. This means that procedures for e-mail and information held on shared and personal hard drives have to be as robust and detailed as those for other records.
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