Records Retention Guidelines (Effective Jan 11, 2005)


The following records retention guidelines provide recommendations for the disposition of records and information used in the administration and management of Duke University's departments, programs, libraries, committees, schools and institutes. The records document the following:

  • creation of policy
  • fulfillment of missions, goals and objectives
  • development and implementation of directives and plans

They also keep university offices functioning day-to-day. Therefore, they can be routine and business-like in nature.

These guidelines apply to administrative and management records and data stored on any and all media. These guidelines do not obligate an office to create records that did not previously exist.

Fiscal Records

Much of the information used in the management and oversight of programs and the administration of offices or centers is financial in nature. An office should follow procedures laid out in Financial Services' General Accounting Procedure 200.240, Retention Periods for Accounting Records when disposing of financial records.

Using the Retention Guidelines

The Retention Guidelines identify minimum retention periods for several categories of administrative and management records. Those categories include:

  • Routine Administrative Records: These records are used to support routine functions in an office. Examples include copies of widely-dispersed policies and procedures, staff meeting records, daily staff calendars, budgetary data, etc.

  • Program Administration and Management Records: These records are used to oversee and administer programs, departments or centers. They are more substantive materials used for planning and evaluation and may be created for reporting purposes, to satisfy missions or directives or to document achievements. Examples include reports, strategic plans, policies and procedures and program development and evaluation records.

  • Records of Standing and Ad Hoc Committees, Councils or Boards: These records are created in the conduct of business by the many committees and councils at Duke University. Examples include meeting minutes and supporting documents, working papers, reports and membership records.

A title and brief description of the contents of each series identifies the information or data to be disposed of following the recommended retention period. DO NOT dispose of any records or data if an investigation, legal action or proceeding, audit or program review is forthcoming or in progress.

Following the minimum retention period, the records in question should be disposed of according to the recommendations in these guidelines.

In some cases, it is important to destroy information using a method that preserves its confidentiality. (This excludes records identified for permanent retention.) Duke University maintains contracts with several shredding facilities.

The University Archivist will review the retention guidelines for administrative and management records periodically and will issue revisions as necessary.

If you maintain administrative and management records that are not identified in these guidelines, contact the University Archives for assistance.

Off-Site Storage

In most cases, offices responsible for maintaining records do not have adequate space to store them beyond one or two years. If records must be moved to an off-site storage location, consider the following needs:

  • access and retrieval — including frequency of retrieval, emergency access needs and potential costs associated with getting to the records

  • environmental conditions that provide stable and friendly conditions for the records

  • security systems that prevent unauthorized access to the records

  • filing systems that permit the rapid retrieval of records via a logical index, box list or similar finding aid

  • overall physical and intellectual control over the records for which you are the guardian

Abbreviations and Definitions

  • Administrative Value: the usefulness of a record in the conduct of the office’s business
  • Minimum Retention: the minimum amount of time a particular series of records should be retained prior to disposition
  • Permanent: an indefinite retention period; signifies that the records have sufficient value or importance to justify keeping them in perpetuity. Permanent 
retention also may be based on legal requirements or demonstrated and justifiable need. Long-term or permanent retention of electronic records requires resources for data migration, ensuring the integrity and trustworthiness of the data and addressing hardware/software obsolescence. An office should consider the long-term availability of its resources prior to expressing an interest in retaining information permanently. The University Archives or the Medical Center Archives is the official repository for information with historical or enduring value.

  • Records: all recorded information, regardless of its physical form or characteristics, created or received pursuant to the transaction of university business or in the fulfillment of its educational, administrative, business or legal obligations
  • Record Series (or Series):  a group/set of identical or related records, information or data that are normally used and filed or stored as a logical unit; synonymous with data set

Duke University Records Retention Guidelines

Category Description: Administrative and Management Records

This category of records documents the functions, executive and managerial duties, and overall management of Duke University Administration, schools, departments, libraries, programs, or centers. They may relate to planning initiatives, program implementation and evaluation, or the fulfillment of the University's mission and vision.

Primary Heading: Program Administration and Management Records

These are unique records that document the development, administration and management and evaluation of programs, departments or centers. Typically, they are used to support the programs or document activities and are retained to assist in planning efforts or to provide historical perspective for the office.

Series Title


Minimum Retention


Audit Reports: Financial Findings of audits of financial systems/records. Follow General Accounting Procedure 200.240 for disposition of fiscal records.
Audit Reports: Programs, Departments, or Centers Findings of audits of programs, departments or centers; may include related correspondence. 5 years; transfer to Archives
Calendar of events and programs Calendar of events for programs, departments or centers; may include summaries of events and planning documents. superseded or obsolete
Conferences attended Records of conferences, symposia, or workshops attended by staff of departments, programs, or centers. administrative value ends Follow General Accounting Procedure 200.240 for disposition of fiscal records.
Conferences conducted or sponsored Records of conferences, symposia, or workshops conducted or sponsored by staff of departments, programs, or centers.

Contracts: 3 years after final payment if not being audited

Remaining Records: 5 years; transfer to Archives (excluding fiscal records)

Follow General Accounting Procedure 200.240 for disposition of fiscal records.
Plans and reports Planning documents; project or program reports; activity or summary (year-end) reports; etc.; may include supporting documents or aggregate data. 5 years; transfer to Archives Retain drafts only if major changes occur from one draft to the next.
Policies and procedures (record copies), including handbooks Policies and procedures for programs, departments, or centers. superseded or obsolete, transfer to Archives
Program development and accreditation records Documents establishment, planning, and review/accreditation of major department activities/projects. 5 years; transfer to Archives
Resource and reference material Catalogs, articles, guidelines, and similar records related to programs. reference value ends These materials are from outside sources; this category does not include materials created to support department projects or programs.
Strategic plans Identify goals and objectives for programs, departments, or centers 5 years; transfer to Archives
Subject files Records providing background for office programs, mission, or functions and serving as resources for carrying out those activities. contact Archives for review and appraisal

Primary Heading: Records of Standing and Ad Hoc Committees, Councils, or Boards

These records document activities and decisions of committees, councils and boards with which offices deal, or upon which office staff serves.

Series Title


Minimum Retention


Committee records May include agendas, minutes and appendices/attachments, bylaws, charters, correspondence, working papers, reports, etc., created by standing and ad hoc committees. 5 years; transfer to Archives Committee should identify guardian of record copies (i.e., secretary) and destroy duplicate/reference copies.
Membership records Membership lists, acceptance letters, nomination letters, etc. 5 years; transfer to Archives

Primary Heading: Routine Administrative Records

These records concern daily functions, administration and operations of the office and are used as routine supporting documentation for management activities and the conduct of business.

Series Title


Minimum Retention


Correspondence (routine) routine correspondence/email concerning information requests, invitations, confirmations, scheduling, etc. administrative value ends  
Emergency Notifications call back lists, emergency and after-hours contact information superseded or obsolete
Equipment instructions/manuals, warranties & guarantees, rental/lease/maintenance agreements, service documentation, etc. 3 years after disposition of equipment Follow General Accounting Procedure 200.240 for disposition of fiscal records
Meeting Records (staff) may include agendas, minutes and appendices/attachments, correspondence, etc., created for routine staff meetings 3 years  
Monthly Reports routine reports documenting activities of staff 3 years Also see Plans and Reports
Office Administrative and Support Records records used in the administration and daily functions of the office; may include copies of policies and procedures, distribution lists, copies of budget documents, etc. administrative value ends Follow General Accounting Procedure 200.240 for disposition of fiscal records
Organizational Charts   superseded or obsolete, transfer to Archives  
Professional Groups correspondence, copies of minutes, publications/newsletters, etc. concerning professional organizations/associations to which staff of programs, departments or centers belong administrative value ends; transfer to Archives if group affiliated with Duke University and destroy remainder Does not include records of student groups or organizations
Records Management retention guidelines, inventories of material stored off-site, destruction certificates, etc. retain destruction certificates

Remaining Records: superseded or obsolete