Harvard University Records Schedules

Records Management Services has developed University-approved policies on retaining and disposing of records to enable offices to make informed decisions about their records. These policies, called Records Retention Schedules, are designed to ensure that the University’s records are retained for as long as they are needed for administrative, legal and fiscal or research purposes, and are properly disposed of once their value to the office and University has passed. Retention schedules provide several benefits for your office, such as

  • Providing a legally-defensible means of disposing of records
  • Ensuring compliance with laws and regulations
  • Minimizing the legal risks posed by inadequate records management practices
  • Reducing the overall costs of managing records


Records schedules provide the rules for how long records must be kept and what should be done with them when that time has passed. There are two types of records schedules, the General Records Schedule (GRS)  and office-specific records schedules. Both types of records retention schedules

  • Describe different types of records
  • Explain how long they must be retained
  • Designate what to do with them when they have fulfilled their retention period


Important Note:
University records may not be destroyed or otherwise disposed of without the authority of the General Records Schedule or an office-specific records schedule.

General Records Schedule

The General Records Schedule (GRS) covers common records found throughout the University – accounts payable, personnel files, student records, and special events are just a few examples. It applies to records in all formats, including electronic records such as Word documents, spreadsheets and databases, and e-mail. Most entries in the GRS direct you to retain records for a specific number of years, after which they can be destroyed. Records that have historical value and may be appropriate for transfer to the University Archives are indicated in the retention plan by the phrases "contact archives" and "transfer to archives."

Office-specific records schedules

Office-specific records schedules are developed by Records Management Services for unique types of records in your office that are not covered by the GRS. Most offices do not need specific records schedules. If you do not find an entry in the GRS for some of your records, or would like to determine if your office already has a specific schedule, please contact us.

Using Records Schedules in Your Office

Use records schedules to

  • Guide an office or e-mail cleanup project
  • Determine what to do with records you’ve inherited from another employee
  • Learn which records are of permanent, historical value in your office
  • Set up a filing system that works for your office
  • Know what records you can get rid of and which you need to keep

Start by matching your records to the entries in the General Records Schedule or in your office-specific schedule.

Once you know how long you need to keep your records and what to do with them when you are done (destroy or send to an archives), you can start by destroying obsolete non-permanent records. For records that you need to keep but don’t need access to on a regular basis, consider offsite storage. Transfer the permanent records that you no longer need to the archives. Finally, set up a plan to maintain your records on a regular basis.