Records management

Records management is an established theory and methodology for ensuring the systematic management of all records and the information they contain throughout their lifecycle.

According to International Standard ISO 15489: 2001, records management is defined as:

The field of management responsible for the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use and disposition of records, including the processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business activities and transactions in the form of records.

A detailed description of what constitutes a record will be explored further in the section What is a record?. Traditionally records were held on paper, microfilm or microfiche, but are now predominantly created and held in electronic format or within electronic systems.

The core concept underpinning records management theory is that of the lifecycle, which sees records having a series of phases from creation to final disposition ultimately resulting either in their controlled destruction or being retained on a permanent basis as an archival record.

The principle reason for applying the lifecycle concept to records management is to ensure that the records being created and held by the institution are being managed and maintained in such a way that they:

  • meet all internal business needs
  • enable the defence of the rights and interests of the institution and its stakeholders
  • enable the content of the record to be accessed, used and reused in a controlled and efficient manner
  • is compliant with all regulatory and statutory requirements
  • is capable of providing evidence of a transaction or business process which is admissible in a court of law
  • is kept and maintained/stored in the most economical way consistent with the above objectives
  • is disposed of in a way which is auditable, and meets all environmental and other requirements

According to International Standard ISO 15489: 2001 records management includes the following activities:

  • setting policies and standards
  • assigning responsibilities and authorities
  • establishing and promulgating procedures and guidelines
  • providing a range of services relating to the management and use of records
  • designing, implementing and administering specialized systems for managing records and
  • integrating records management into business systems and processes

About this resource

This infoKit will be of use to anyone working in a further or higher education institution who either works within a records management related function, or who has been charged with investigating records management issues as part of their role.  It is not intended as a comprehensive guide, more an introduction to some of the key concepts and terminology for those new to the area. It does contain some suggestions for how this theory might be translated into practice within an institutional context and links to related resources.


Published: 16 November 2012 | Last updated: 16 November 2012