General University Records Retention Schedule

General University Records Retention Schedule

On this page: Introduction - Purpose | Description | Advantages | Terms | How to Use the General Schedule | Approval & Authority


Introduction - Purpose

To provide a single master "general" schedule that specifies the standard approved retention requirements for those records series that are common to many University offices and departments. (The departmental/office Records Retention Schedule, in comparison, lists those records series that are uniquely held by each office or department.) 



The General Schedule serves as the basic guide for the retention of common University records series. Approved variations to General Schedule retention standards will be documented on individual office Records Retention Schedules.

The disposition of records series not covered by the General Schedule must be authorized separately on an individual office Records Retention Schedule approved by the State Records Committee.



The advantages of using a General Records Retention Schedule are:

  • Minimizes duplication of effort -- by University departments, the University Records Management Program, and the State Records Committee.
  • Discourages excessive retention of records.
  • Simplifies and improves the frequency and thoroughness of Records Retention Schedule review.



Attention should be given to the following terms:

Records Series: A group of documents that perform a specific function in an office. They may be filed as a unit, used as a unit, and transferred and disposed of as a unit. A records series may consist of copies of a single form or may be comprised of various types of documents.

Official Copy: the office responsible for the most important copy of a record is identified first on the general schedule. Usually this office will hold the OPR (official public record) if appropriate, which will be retained for the required six-year period. This office is also called the originating office.

OPR: The abbreviation "OPR" stands for official public record or the official or primary copy of a record. Official public records meet one or more of the following criteria: (1) they are identified and required by statute; (2) the record documents legal actions or transactions; or (3) fiscally or financially obligates the university. "OPR" records have a minimum retention of six (6) years unless otherwise approved by the State Records Committee. All other documents are classified as "OFM" or office files and memoranda.

Retention Period: The length of time the records series must be retained before the records are eligible for destruction, or for archival records, before transfer to the University Archives & Records Center. The retention period begins as the files are "cut-off," at a specified time, such as calendar year for correspondence, or fiscal year for most financial records, or with a specific action or event that makes the files inactive (such as termination of employment for some personnel records).

Archival, Potentially Archival, or Selected Files Potentially Archival: This designation pertains to a records series of historical value to the University. Offices which hold records designated as "archival," "potentially archival," or "selected files potentially archival" should transfer them to the University Archives & Records Center when the files become inactive, i.e. have served their main purpose for the office and no longer are needed for current operations.


How to Use the General Schedule

The WWU General Records Retention Schedule is divided into eight sections. The first column lists the record's unique disposition authority number (assigned to it by the State Archives when approved), and the next column gives the name and description of the record. the third column gives the retention period or period of time that the record must be retained by that office, as well as what actions should happen at the end of the retention period and what office holds the official copy. 

The last column of the General Schedule lists the location of other copies of the records series and the approved retention period for that copy.

The column that lists the retention period also specifies a time when the retention periods begin, also described as a cut-off. This is the time when the records become inactive. Cut-offs are often based on the fiscal, academic, or calendar year. For example, a budget report created in the 1996-97 fiscal year becomes inactive as of the last day of the 1996-97 fiscal year, and retention can be calculated beginning July 1, 1997. If the records retention is 3 years, the records may be destroyed after June 30, 2000. Records may also become inactive when an action takes place, such as graduation of the student or termination of employment.

Records which have fulfilled the retention requirements may be destroyed unless the retention column specifies that the records should be transferred to Archives. Those records have continuing historical value for the University and will be preserved in the University Archives. (See Records Center Services for information on transferring records to the University Archives & Records Center, or call 650-6654 for assistance.)


Approval & Authority

Records retention guidelines on the general university schedule have been reviewed and approved by the University Records Officer and generally reflect retention standards developed in cooperation with the office of record and, when appropriate, with the advice of the University Auditor and Assistant Attorney General. This schedule is issued by the Washington State Records Committee pursuant to its authority under the provisions of Chapter 40.14 of the Revised Code of Washington. The State Records Committee is composed of representatives of the Offices of State Auditor, Attorney General, Financial Management, and the State Archivist.