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Directorate of Governance and Legal Services

Records retention schedule

What is a retention schedule?

A retention schedule is a control document. It sets out the classes of records which Queen Mary retains and the length of time these are retained before a final disposition action is taken (i.e. destruction or transfer to The Archives). It applies to information regardless of its format or the media in which it is created or might be held. The Queen Mary retention schedule was approved by QMSE in 2010.

You are advised not to print or save local copies of the Records Retention Schedule but instead to return to this page to ensure you view the most up-to-date copy. You can do this by bookmarking this page.

Why do we need a retention schedule?

Infinite retention results in infinite waste. Keeping unnecessary records wastes staff time, uses up valuable space and incurs unnecessary costs. It also imposes a risk liability when it comes to servicing requests for information made under data protection legislation and/or the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Moreover, compliance with these acts means that, for example, personal data must not be kept longer than is necessary for the purposes for which it was collected (the fifth data protection principle).

Records should only be destroyed as per QMUL’s Policy. It can be a personal criminal offence to destroy requested information under either the Data Protection Act 2018 (Section 173) or the Freedom of Information Act (Section 77). Therefore, Queen Mary needs to be able to demonstrate clearly that records destruction has taken place in accordance with proper retention procedures.

The Code of Practice on Records Management, issued under Section 46 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, requires that records disposal 'is undertaken in accordance with clearly established policies that have been formally adopted'. The Records Retention Schedule is a key component of Queen Mary's information compliance and allows it to standardise its approach to retention and disposal.

How to use the retention schedule

The retention periods on the Schedule specify how long records need to be retained either in academic, financial or calendar years starting from a trigger point. The Schedule is structured so that records become due for a review at the end of the academic/financial year. This allows one destruction exercise to be conducted per year. There are more detailed instructions in the Records Management Procedures [DOC 370KB].

The master copy and duplicates

The recommended retention periods shown on the Records Retention Schedule apply to the official or master copy of the records. Any duplicates or local copies made for working purposes (notably Finance and HR records, plus publications) should be kept for as short a period of time as possible, normally a maximum of one year and in no circumstances longer than the master copy. Duplication should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. It should be clear who is responsible for retaining the master version of a record and copies should be clearly marked as such to avoid confusion.

Some types of records which may be created and kept locally are the responsibility of the local department, but may be found under a different function on the retention schedule: for example where recruitment is carried out by departments, the department shall be responsible for ensuring the disposal of the records relating to unsuccessful candidates but this type of record is found under Human Resources on the retention schedule.


If you have any questions about how the Schedule and how to apply it, please contact the Records & Information Compliance Manager.

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