Paper – from Mountain to Molehill

With the advent of the computer age, many people have heralded the anticipated demise of paper. A quick look on Google, however, reveals that according to the Mail Online paper consumption globally has increased by almost half since 1980!

However, achieving a reduction in paper storage still remains an aspiration for us, and particularly at RGU with a move to a new modern Campus building the thought of moving all that paper, never mind where to put it, presents a great opportunity to get rid of it. Over the past few years, our Records Manager, Keith Fraser, has developed a records management strategy for the University and has been working with Schools and Departments to help them with their approach to records management.

A key priority has been to work with the Schools who are moving into the new Campus building, to make sure they are reducing as much as possible their paper filing. One of the early achievements in the records management strategy was the creation of the Master Retention Schedule, or MaRS as it has become affectionately known.  Based on advice from a whole range of sources, this set of documents tells you what you can destroy, and when. It also tells you what you need to keep and for how long.

Using MaRS, Schools are making great progress in eliminating unnecessary paper stores. Our School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, for example, disposed of 200 bags of paper in the last 12 months.

One thing that became clear, however, was that student files represent about 70% of all paper storage in the Schools. These include:

  • UCAS Forms
  • Medical Certificates
  • Transcripts for each year
  • Email and letter correspondence
  • Private and Confidential Correspondence
  • Withdrawal / Suspension Confirmations from Student Administration
  • Industrial Placement Forms
  • Completed Exam papers in circumstances where special exam was sat. etc
  • Absence forms
  • Record of personal interviews
  • Withdrawal / suspension forms (signed by staff)
  • Fitness to practice information  etc

These paper files can be disposed off once students have left, but that still leaves a lot of paper for students who are here for 4 years. So, we have decided to add an electronic document management module to our student records system.

The new module has been purchased and installed, and what we are doing at the moment is scanning all the paper records into the student record system. Our internal graphics and printing department, “The Gatehouse”, are doing the scanning – and it’s not a simple process. The original paper records have to be bar coded with the student ID number, and then the scanning can correctly match them up to the student entry in the system. For the first 3 Schools (School of Computing, School of Engineering, School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences), that’s about 1,700 student files but the Gatehouse is making great progress. Once these are done, we’ll look at the remaining Schools – that’s about another 5,500 student files.

Once this is done, properly authorised staff can look at the student record for any student and see digital copies of all the paper records for that student. The actual paper originals can then be securely disposed off and we will have eliminated a very substantial storage of paper from across the Campus.

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