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Developing Records Retention and Disposition Schedules

Information is a Resource

Records are the memory of KAUST and its departments, holding knowledge and evidence of our activities that may be forgotten when people move on.

Records = University Assets

What is records management? ISO-15489, the international standard on "Information and documentation" defines records management as:

[T]he efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt and disposition of records, including processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business activities and transactions in the form of records…

In simple terms? Records management is the professional practice of managing the records of an organization throughout their lifecycle, from the time they are created to their eventual disposal. It usually refers to the actions taken to improve the efficiency of recordkeeping, ensure access to information, or reduce the costs of records storage.
The term includes such things as:

  • The development of records retention schedules;
  • The management of filing and information retrieval systems;
  • The adequate protection of University records that are vital, archival, or confidential;
  • The economical and space-effective storage of inactive records; and
  • Control over the creation and distribution of forms, reports, and correspondence.

Records management can help the University meet legal obligations; ensure that records with historical value are retained to document the unique character and history of the University; and support decision-making, promote accountability and transparency.

Oftentimes people confuse the two terms but they are not necessarily interchangeable. In general, records management relates to business records that still have some operational attachment. As a result, records managers are likely to ask, "When do these particular business records stop being operationally useful?"
By contrast, archival management relates mostly to historical records. While they may process records the overriding operational attachment has subsided. So archivists are likely to ask, "How do we permanently preserve these particular records after they have ceased being operationally useful?"


Records are a resource that must be managed, just as we manage the human, financial, material and property resources of the University. Records that relate to the operation and administration of the University are managed in accordance with the University Records Policy (in addition to other regulatory, fiscal or business specific requirements).
Even if you run your department efficiently, paper and electronic documents still accumulate in filing cabinets, records storage areas, and valuable University server space. It makes good professional sense to give special attention to reducing the amount of space used for record storage. Timely destruction of valueless records offers a low-cost solution.
A properly designed record retention program provides you the opportunity to correctly determine how long you need records for business purposes and ensure that users have records to do their jobs. The program also ensures that records will be destroyed when they are no longer needed. Records that should exist, will exist! Records that should not exist, will not exist!
A records retention program also improves the access to valuable information. When you regularly destroy valueless records, current information can be located and retrieved much faster. You can better allocate staff to manage and control the important records, instead of squandering them to manage "junk".

The University Records Policy mandates that University offices must “…ensure the efficient creation, storage, classification, maintenance, retention and disposal of information.”

This means that departments must take special steps when creating, maintaining, protecting and destroying records to:

  • Preserve the integrity of documents created or maintained in the course of institutional business;
  • Secure sensitive information contained in University records; and
  • Ensure that records that are no longer needed or have no value are discarded at the appropriate time.