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Retention of Student Records (GAP 8.3)

Document 8.3

Retention of Student Records

Current version

January 30, 2012

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Applicable to all graduate students

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If you have questions or suggestions about this handbook, contact the office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education.

This handbook is a reference for Stanford faculty, staff and students. Where the current Stanford University Bulletin includes coverage of these topics, the current Bulletin is the governing policy. Stanford University reserves the right to make changes to its applicable policies, procedures and other materials contained here at any time and without prior notice.


Describes University and department responsibilities for the retention of, access to, and disposal of student records


Stanford University assigns responsibilities to the Office of the Registrar and to the various departments and programs for the collection, handling and disposition of student records.


1.1 Transcripts

Transcripts of Stanford records are issued by the Office of the Registrar upon the student's request when submitted in writing or via the Axess web portal. There is no charge for official transcripts. The courses taken and grades given in one quarter do not appear on any student's transcript until all grades received by the grade deadline have been recorded; generally, this is two weeks after final exams. The University reserves the right to withhold transcripts and similar records where students, for example, have unmet obligations to the university (see GAP 5.5, Enrollment Holds).

1.2 Certification of Enrollment and Degrees

The Office of the Registrar can provide oral or written confirmation of registration, enrollment, or degree status. The printed certification can be used whenever enrollment or degree verification is required for car insurance, loan deferments, medical coverage, scholarship purposes, and so on. Using Axess, students are able to print an official certification at no charge. Certification of full- or part-time enrollment cannot be provided until after the study list is filed.

After conferral, the degree awarded to a student can be verified by contacting the Office of the Registrar for an official transcript or a certification form, or by contacting the National Student Clearinghouse. Requests for transcripts must be made by the student in writing or through Axess (see GAP 5.7, Conferral of Degrees).

1.3 Registrar’s Office Files

The Office of the Registrar maintains a record for each enrolled graduate student. At the present time, that file generally contains the student’s application to Stanford (except letters of recommendation), the student’s transcripts from other universities, and may also contain various records from the student’s career at Stanford. At the present time, the Office of the Registrar also stores, on-line or on microfilm, some historical evidence of student completion of forms such as study lists, registration commitment forms, tuition adjustment requests, graduation applications, etc., as well as final transcripts after graduation.

The Office of the Registrar does not keep records from applicants who were denied admission or who refused Stanford’s offer of admission.

1.4 Department Files

All departments maintain records for the applicants to their graduate programs for three years, whether the applicant was offered admission or not. At the end of that three-year period, the files for applicants who were denied admission or who refused Stanford’s offer of admission may be disposed of (see section 1.6, below).

If the department’s practice is to include the admission folder for an applicant in the student folder, it is strongly advised that letters of recommendation, to which the applicant waived his or her access rights, be removed from the folder and either discarded or kept separately after the admission decision.

Department student records contain important documents that chart the student’s progress or lack of progress toward the degree. Departments are encouraged to keep complete records for students and to set regular schedules for secure file destruction (see 1.6, below). Examples of documents to be kept in student files include, and are not limited to, program proposals, applications for candidacy, dissertation reading committee forms, change of advisor forms, oral examination forms, requests for extension of candidacy forms, formal correspondence related to department milestone attempts/completion, and letters, if any, warning of unsatisfactory progress or dismissal. These are important to keep, either as paper files or transferred to an approved lasting medium such as scanned pdf files, for as long as the school recommends. Usually, retention of the complete file is recommended for five years after the student leaves the program.  If a student leaves the program without graduating (i.e., dismissal or expulsion, failure to register, voluntary termination), retention of the complete file for ten years is recommended.

1.5 Access to Student/Applicant Files

In general, students who enroll at Stanford have the right to review educational records in their student record (central or department), or that are kept elsewhere by the university about them. The information is available to the student only, for review while enrolled or anytime thereafter. This right is guaranteed by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (see GAP 8.2, Privacy of Student Records/FERPA).

A Stanford employee may keep letters to or notes about a student in that employee’s personal files. These records are not accessible to the student, as long as (as a general proposition) they are not shared by the employee with anyone else.
Items to which the student has explicitly signed a waiver of access - such as letters of recommendation for admission, a job, an award or honor - should be kept separately from the student’s file.

For more information about the privacy of student or applicant records, departments may wish to consult the Stanford Bulletin, the Registrar’s Office web site on this subject, or senior staff within the Office of the Registrar. For advice regarding unusual requests or legal subpoena for records, departments are advised to consult with the Office of the Registrar, who may also consult with the Office of the General Counsel.

1.6 Disposal of Student/Applicant Documents

Any document that contains non-public information about students or applicants — especially sensitive items such as admission applications, letters of recommendation, grades, or private addresses — should receive special handling when retention is no longer needed. It should either be shredded or destroyed in some way that maintains its confidentiality. There are several companies in the Stanford area that specialize in confidential waste disposal.


1. Retains information on all applicants to their graduate degree programs. Department
2. Establishes a university record for each admitted and enrolled graduate student. Registrar
3. For students who are admitted and enrolled, maintains student information in PeopleSoft Student Administration and in departmental records. Department
4. Disposes of student information in an appropriate manner. Registrar and Department


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