Introduction to the University of Waterloo Records Classification and Retention Schedules (WatClass)

WatClass is the approved University records classification scheme and records retention schedules, described in the "Information Lifecycle Management" section of Policy 46 - Information Management. WatClass is used to categorize and manage the retention of all University of Waterloo records, in all media and formats.

Managing records according to WatClass ensures that records are available for University administration for as long as they are needed to meet statutory, regulatory, policy, contractual, and operational requirements, and that they are disposed of appropriately when they have reached the end of their retention period. WatClass also forms the basis for the directory of University records and personal information banks which the University is required to publish under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).


Additions and Revisions

Classification of University Records

University Functions

Records Classes & Retention Schedules

Information Stewards, and Information Confidentiality Classification


Retention schedules are developed by the University Records Manager in collaboration with the units responsible for the records. Additional input is provided by the Privacy Officer (for records containing personal information) and the Library Special Collections & Archives department (to identify records of long-term historical value) before final approval for use by the Vice-President, Administration & Finance or their delegate. All University of Waterloo offices are expected to follow the WatClass retention rules to meet their responsibilities under Policy 46 as information custodians. 

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Addition​s and Revisions

New records classes and their retention schedules are added to WatClass as they are required to support University administration. If you cannot find a suitable records class for records kept by your unit, please contact the University Records Managerfor assistance. Current planning for WatClass revisions and updates are described on this page: WatClass Updates.

Records retention schedules are revised as required to match changes in statutes, regulations, or policies, and to keep pace with changes in University record-keeping practices. Substantive changes, such as changes to retention periods or disposition rules, require approval by the Vice-President, Administration & Finance (or delegate).

Classification of University ​Records

WatClass provides a framework for organizing University records in any format, based on the University's functions and activities rather than its organizational structure. For example the function Finance applies to financial records held in any University unit, not only those held in Finance department. Every organizational unit has records associated with a range of functions, for example, employee records (Human Resources) and committee records (Administration), as well as the records associated with the unit's primary mission. Classifying records by functions and activities ensures that similar records are managed in a similar manner across the University. 

The combination of University functions and records classes as sub-divisions of those functions, described in more detail below, can be used as the first two levels of a classification scheme used by an office to organize paper files, folders in SharePoint or a shared drive, or as indexing terms assigned to records in other information systems.

University Functions

WatClass organizes all University records into 12 broad functional categories (with an associated 2-letter code). Three core functions represent the primary activities of the University:

Research Management (RS)e.g., research ethics, research grants and contracts administration, research with controlled goods and technology.

Students (ST)e.g., student recruitment, admissions, student records, financial aid and scholarships, student grievances, discipline, and appeals.

Teaching and Learning (TL)e.g., academic calendars, academic program reviews and accreditation, co-operative and continuing education programs, course management, student work and its evaluation, exchange programs, internships and practica, professional development and training, and class and exam schedules.

The remaining nine functions support the University’s primary activities:

Administration (AD)e.g., general correspondence and subject files, organizational charts, strategic planning, administrative committees, legal records, policies, procedures, and risk management.

Campus Services (CS)e.g., non-academic services to the university community, athletics and recreation, parking, and retail services.

University Relations and Advancement (UR)e.g., donors, alumni affairs, government and inter-institutional relations, events and celebrations, media relations, marketing, outreach, publications.  speeches, and the website.

Finance (FN)e.g., accounts payable and receivable, purchasing card transactions, banking, budgeting, investments, financial audit, procurement, and taxation.

Governance (GV)Board of Governors, Senate, Faculty councils, and their committees.

Human Resources (HR)e.g., faculty and staff appointments, employee records, promotion and tenure, awards and recognition, pension and benefits, employee discipline and grievances, position descriptions, salary and payroll, and work schedules and leave management.

Health, Safety, and Security (HS)e.g., conflict management and human rights, health and counselling, occupational health, safety, access and key control, and Special Constable Services.

Information Management and Technology (IM)e.g., access to information and protection of privacy, information systems management, information security, libraries, museums, and galleries, and records management.

Property and Facilities (PF)e.g., buildings, capital construction projects, space management, asset management, utilities, equipment and supplies, maps and plans.

Records Classes & Retention Schedules

Each University function is subdivided into records classes, and each records class has its own retention schedule. A records class is a group of records which support and document related activities, tasks, and transactions.

The structure and content of the records retention schedules is described in this document: University records retention schedule content.

Information Stewards, and Information Confidentiality Classification

All retention schedules now identify the information stewards and information confidentiality classification of the records class.

The Directory of Administrative Information Stewards is a complete list of the University's information stewards: the senior-level administrators with overall responsibility for records associated with their areas of administrative responsibility (the role of information steward is defined in Policy 46). In most cases, a retention schedule lists one information steward for a records class, but in some cases responsibility for a records class is distributed amongst stewards.

The University's information confidentiality classification is defined in Policy 46. The information confidentiality classifications are:

  • Public: Records which the information steward, or the information custodian delegated responsibility by the steward, has approved for public release.
  • Confidential: Records which have not been approved for public release, and which do not contain sensitive or protected information requiring a classification of "restricted" or "highly restricted."
  • Restricted: Confidential records whose protection is required by law or regulation, or the university is required to provide notice to an individual or some authority of unauthorized use or disclosure of the information.
  • Highly restricted: Confidential or restricted records requiring heightened information security measures, because one can expect to routinely find one or more of the following types of information in the records:
    • Social insurance numbers
    • Bank account numbers
    • Credit card numbers
    • Driver's license numbers
    • Health insurance numbers
    • Information related to contracts governed by regulations of Public Services and Procurement Canada's Contract Security Program, or controlled technology and/or controlled technical data as regulated by the Defence Production Act

If more than one information confidentiality category is listed in the retention schedule, then the records class contains identifiable sub-categories of records with those classifications. For example, the minutes of open sessions of committee meetings are public, while the minutes of closed or in camera sessions are confidential or restricted.

For more information, see Guidance on Information Confidentiality Classification.