University Archive Management and Development Policy

1 Purpose and scope

1.1 The University maintains ‘the University Archive’ as a way of identifying, collecting and preserving those original and unique records that document the history of the University and its predecessor bodies, including academic and research interests. The holding of such records in a ‘University Archive’ is then intended to help staff, students, the academic research community and the wider public in accessing information about the University’s history. 

1.2 The purpose of this Policy is to guide the way in which the University Archive is managed, in order to:

  • Identify and collect records of permanent legal, administrative, financial, or historical value.
  • Keep such records safe and in good condition.
  • Provide a means of determining what should or could be added to the University Archive, including records that are recommended for transfer from University departments for preservation within the University Archives through guidelines set out in this Policy (see Appendix).
  • Sort, catalogue and manage the records in order to maximize their usefulness as an information and research resource, using appropriate tools and adhering to the relevant accepted international standards.
  • Take all necessary steps to ensure the continued preservation and conservation of the records.
  • Ensure compliance with the University’s Data Protection Policy and obligations under the Data Protection Act 2018 and the EU General Data Protection Regulations 2016 (GDPR).
  • Raise awareness of the existence of the information held in the University Archive, and encourage its use for educational, research or other purposes.

2 Additions to the University Archive

Information and documents to be preserved in the University Archive should reflect and provide the essential evidence of the University’s most significant functions and activities. They should also serve the legitimate research needs, either on the part of the University itself, or the wider academic and research community. Archival value will be determined by the evidential, informational and cultural value that records provide, using the following themes: 

  • Records that document the origins, growth and organization of the University of Birmingham and its predecessors
  • Records that demonstrate how, why, and by whom major policies and strategic plans for the University’s teaching, research and support services were formulated.
  • Records that provide a summarized view of what subjects were taught, how they were taught and assessed and how the curriculum developed.
  • Records relating to students and staff where these contribute to an understanding of the University and its history and development or where these are significant in themselves.
  • Selected records relating to the University’s finances and estate development.
  • Records relating to the University’s relationship within the wider community including alumni. 

See the Appendix for further guidance about the identification and transfer of records recommended for inclusion in the University Archive. 

2.2 All types of media including paper, photographs, electronic or digitized or born-digital records, and sound recordings will be considered for incorporation, whether received by internal transfer from within the University or by gift. Capacity to acquire records in digital format is currently limited and lack of digital preservation systems and workflows impacts collections development in digital formats. This has a particular bearing on the transfer of core records of the University which are created in digital format and are identified for permanent preservation in the University Archive. Digital Preservation Policy and supporting documents emphasise the need for investment by the University in digital preservation. 

2.3 All records from internal sources within the University are already the property of the University. Records received from other sources are normally only accepted as a gift. The University does not normally purchase records or accept them on loan for inclusion into the University Archive, whether records were created by the institution or by individual members of staff or students. Accessible records produced, held or disseminated within the University’s public task will be made available for re-use. 

2.4 Personal and professional papers of University staff may be considered for acceptance as donations or on indefinite loan on the criteria set out in the Appendix, below, and following consultation with any related institutions which may hold associated material. 

2.5 Ongoing transfers of records and accruals to existing record sets in the University Archive are documented via the accessioning process. It is intended to add information about the process of making internal transfers to the University Intranet but at present transfers are usually made through personal contact with the Special Collections department. 

2.6 All records to be permanently preserved by being incorporated into the University Archive should be appraised prior to acquisition to ensure: 

  • Duplicate sequences of materials are identified and disposed.
  • Duplicate sets of Minutes and other Records of University Bodies and Committees are identified and disposed.
  • Gaps in Minutes and Records of University Bodies and Committees are identified and, where possible, completed.
  • Material not of permanent value for historical, informational or legal purposes is identified for exclusion from the University Archive, recognizing that their retention may be separately considered for a limited period of time in the Modern Records Store which can be used by any School or Unit with limited local storage.
  • Material requiring specialist conservation treatment is identified. 

2.7 Ongoing appraisal of records within the existing University Archive is necessary due to a legacy of transfers without appraisal until 1997 when the first professional Archivist was appointed.

2.8 See Appendix for further information about identification, transfer, and appraisal criteria.

3 De-accessioning and disposal from the University Archive

3.1 Records which, having been appraised for incorporation into the University Archive, are deemed to be unworthy of permanent preservation will, after consultation with the transferring department or officer, be destroyed or disposed of using secure methods in accordance with the University’s Data Retention Policy. All personal data and special category data will be processed in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR and, where appropriate, applying the guidance in The National Archives’ Guide to archiving personal data (August 2018). 

3.2 Record sets transferred to the University Archive before 1997 which were not subject to appraisal are now assessed as part of the ongoing University Archive cataloguing and management project. These record sets were never accessioned and have no accession records. De-accessioning and disposal decisions are documented, and records are destroyed or disposed of in accordance with the policies and legislation outlined at 3.1.

4 Loans from the University Archive

4.1 Subject to prior approval by the University, original material from the University Archive may be loaned to other registered archives, museums or libraries, on the condition that the borrowing institution takes full responsibility for the care of the item/s and covers the full cost for transport, insurance and if necessary, conservation of the item/s on loan. See the separate Exhibitions Policy for further information. 

4.2 The use of copies of original material will be encouraged unless borrowers can provide satisfactory reassurance that original materials to be considered for loan can be held in accordance with BS EN16893, the Standard for the location, construction and modification of buildings or rooms intended for the storage or use of heritage collections, and BS4971, the Code of Practice for the conservation and care of archive and library collections.

5 Access to the University Archive

5.1 The University Archive will generally be available to staff and students of the University, academic scholars and the wider research community. The University reserves the right to restrict access to personal data of living individuals. Access to the University Archive requires proof of name and address. All users are required to sign an application and undertaking form which outlines their responsibility under the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR, and the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. These terms of access, including confirmation of compliance with the University’s Data Protection Policy. also apply within the University to Colleges and Professional Services staff including senior officers of the University and those servicing committees. 

5.2 In line with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, the general records held in the University Archive will be open to the public unless a specific exemption applies. Application for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 should be made via our Freedom of Information policy

5.3 Records containing personal data may be exempt from disclosure under the provision of the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR. Fragile items may also be withheld for preservation reasons. 

5.4 Digitization of key items for use in promotion and marketing activities by the University will be considered on a case-by-case basis. 

5.5 University Committee records are subject to a 50-year closure period. Requests for access to closed committee records can be made to the Director of Special Collections who will refer them to the appropriate body within the University. 

5.6 All users of the University Archive should conform to rules drawn up by the University which are designed to protect the physical wellbeing of the records. Researchers will be supervised whilst consulting the records.

6 Responsibility for the governance and management of the University Archive

6.1 Responsibility for the governance of all matters relating to the University Archive as an area of University property is delegated by Council via the Senate to the Research Committee. 

6.2 Responsibility for the on-going conservation, preservation and management of the University’s Special Collections is delegated by the University to the Director of Special Collections through the Registrar and Secretary. The Director of Special Collections exercises such responsibility on behalf of the University, within the parameters of this Policy. In this capacity, the Director of Special Collections reports to the Registrar and Secretary and is accountable to the University through the Research Committee for the range of actions taken and services provided in support of this Policy. 

6.3 Responsibility for monitoring compliance with the GDPR and other data protection laws, and with the University’s data protection policies, including managing internal data protection activities, is with the Data Protection Officer who is the first point of contact for individuals whose personal data is processed by the University. 

Approved and Adopted by University Executive Board on behalf of University Council.


Guidelines for the transfer or deposit of records for the University Archives.

A: Institutional records of the University of Birmingham

In general, records are retained for permanent preservation in the University Archive for their evidential value in documenting the developing policy, strategy, and operation of the institution. However, archives created as part of routine administration can contain information that can be used by researchers for a wide range of purposes. For example, student records created as part of normal business practice could be used by historians or social scientists to analyze students' social backgrounds, and it is also important to consider the potential informational value of the records for research purposes. 

Further explanation of the criteria governing the selection of records for the University Archive is given here: 

A.1 Records that document the origins, growth, organization and impact of the University of Birmingham and its predecessors:

  • older official documentation
  • records of predecessor bodies
  • records showing how another institution became part of the University of Birmingham
  • records showing how a new School, Institute, Department or support service was established.

These might consist of minutes; administrative files; formal documents such as signed agreements.

A.2 Records that demonstrate how, why, and by whom major policies and strategic plans for the University’s teaching, research and support services were formulated:

  • committee minutes
  • annual reports
  • key administrative files generated by senior management teams or University officers.

A.3 Records that provide a summarized view of what subjects were taught and assessed and how the curriculum developed. Includes records relating to development of teaching strategy; teaching management planning and policy development; teaching quality and standards management; development and review of the taught curriculum and of taught programmes and courses:

  • course handbooks
  • syllabi
  • examination and other regulations
  • examination papers
  • minutes of Colleges and Boards of Studies as well as higher level committees

A.4 Institutional records relating to students and staff:

  • student record cards, registers and statistical information
  • degree congregation booklets
  • class photographs and lists
  • records of departmental student societies
  • staff handbooks and directories
  • staff record cards and statistical information
  • records relating to the establishment of Chairs and to significant appointments
  • University publications for students and staff
  • records of University staff or student societies, particularly minute books, membership records, photographs, publications, and leaflets and other ephemera

A.5 Selected records relating to the University’s finances and estate development. Includes records relating to the development of development of estate management strategies and policies; the management and development of the University estates; the development of finance strategies and policies; accounts and asset management; the development of personnel strategies and policies; workforce planning and management; intellectual property management, including management of patents:

  • annual accounts
  • records summarizing the acquisition of funds and investment management
  • endowment reports
  • campus plans and architectural drawings
  • property registers and deeds
  • photographs of buildings during construction and working life
  • relevant committee minutes

A.6 Records relating to the University’s relationship with the wider community including alumni. Includes records relating to the development of marketing and public relations strategies and policies; the development and management of alumni relations strategies and policies and events; the development and management of fundraising campaigns; the development and management of community relations and special events:

  • market research reports
  • promotional materials
  • press releases and clippings
  • committee minutes
  • alumni statistics
  • publications including prospectus and Calendar
  • photographs of special events
  • Honorary Degrees citations
  • correspondence and committee minutes
  • inaugural lectures

See further guidance about the identification and transfer of institutional records. 

Information available here includes specific guidance on the identification and transfer of University Committee records, drawn from the model schedules produced by JISC based on a functional model of the business of the University (see JISC HE Business Classification Scheme and Records Retention Schedule).

B: Identification of records

Records with archival value should be identified at the earliest possible stage in the records life cycle. No distinction is made between born-digital records and paper-based records, though it is recognized that born-digital records may need to be identified for permanent preservation at creation or at digital preservation system design stage, particularly in the case of web content. 

Special Collections is working with colleagues in Library Services and IT to establish Digital Preservation policies and procedures in order to be able to manage born-digital material and can discuss our current capabilities in this with records creators and depositors. See the Digital Preservation Policy for further information. 

Records should be created in standard file formats to be set out in Guidelines for Donors and Depositors. 

C: Records not retained

Information within records which is recorded or duplicated at a higher level will not normally be retained. For example, records of minor committees or working groups that reported to policy-making committees at a higher level within the University hierarchy will not be accepted unless records of those policy-making committees do not survive.

Examples of records that will not be accepted:

  • copies of correspondence
  • material related to routine activities
  • duplicate records
  • multiple copies of the same items
  • printed material not created by the University
  • material relating to unsuccessful applications i.e. project funding, job applications. 

D: Transfer

University-level committee records will, in most cases, meet the criteria for permanent preservation and should be identified for routine transfer when each set of papers is generated. A copy should be included for Special Collections and transferred when papers are distributed to committee members. 

Efforts will be made to fill gaps in record sequences, and it is expected that there will be pro-active identification of material generated by Schools 1998-2008 and by Colleges from 2008 onwards which meet criteria for inclusion in University Archive, as set out above, in documenting the key functions and activities of the University.  

Those making transfers of records will need to complete a transfer list giving details of the material including dates covered and a categorization of contents. 

Consultation will take place between Special Collections and University Departments concerning the review of records. In the longer-term, an annual review of records against retention schedules will be established which will ensure the transfer of records on a routine basis. 

It is expected that record sequences identified for inclusion in the University Archive are routinely processed for transfer, and it is the responsibility of relevant roles within administrative and academic departments to ensure that this transfer takes place. 

The preservation of eligible Research Data is managed by the Scholarly Communications team within Library Services. 

E: Appraisal

Retention decisions will be applied at series level, using a process of macro-appraisal. For example, a series of committee minutes will be selected, rather than individual minutes of particular meetings. 

For some records, series-level appraisal may not be possible. In the case of correspondence files where there is a properly constructed and maintained classification scheme, appraisal will be undertaken at file series level (all files with a common identifier). In cases where the classification scheme has broken down, or where there is no evidence that a scheme existed, appraisal will be undertaken on a file-by-file basis. 

It is essential to retain the context in which documents are created in order to ensure the evidential value of records for future researchers. For example, if a correspondence file appears to contain only one or two significant papers, retaining the whole file will ensure that researchers are able to understand the context in which the records were created, and by whom. 

F: Modern Records Store

The Modern Records Store provides a facility for the short to medium-term retention of records. It can also be used for the storage of paper-based research data provided departments cover the cost of such storage and follow agreed procedures for transfer, file retrieval, and records review. Enquiries about the storage of paper-based research data will usually be made to the Scholarly Communications team in Library Services in the first instance and referred to Special Collections. 

Written guidance on the University of Birmingham’s website set out the responsibilities of Special Collections as custodians of material kept in the facility, with reference to the Data Protection Act 2018. They also explain depositors’ responsibilities in making transfers to the Modern Records Store. Records deposited in the Modern Records Store may be identified for permanent preservation in the University Archives following review and discussion with the records creators, regardless of the creating body or department. 

G: Personal papers of students and staff

Personal and professional papers of University staff will be considered for preservation in the University Archives where these contribute to an understanding of the University and its history and development or where they document impact on the wider world and have a recognized research value. 

Collections will be considered for acceptance where the content of collections of personal and professional papers reflect one or more of the following criteria:

  • the individual had or has a national or international reputation in their academic field;
  • the staff member’s service with the University or an affiliated institution contributed to its growth and development;
  • the individual made a significant contribution to local or national affairs. 

Records can include:

  • correspondence
  • biographical material
  • photographs
  • research files
  • manuscripts of articles and books written
  • diaries
  • notebooks
  • memorabilia
  • sound and film recordings. 

Files containing offprints, photocopies, grey literature, lecture notes or other teaching materials will not normally be accepted. 

Personal papers of individual University students will be considered for preservation in the University Archives where these contribute to an understanding of the University and its history and development particularly in relation to student life and experience. 

Records of University students can include:

  • diaries
  • biographical material
  • photographs
  • personal correspondence while at University
  • memoirs of University life
  • lecture notes
  • memorabilia including programmes, leaflets, and material relating to student societies. 

Textiles and artefacts will not normally be accepted unless there is an intrinsic connection between these items and other material making up a collection of personal papers.