Public documents

Umeå University is a state administrative authority and is therefore obliged to apply the constitutional principle of public access to public documents. The principle of public access to public documents means that anyone has the right to access public documents. This can only be limited if the document is covered by confidentiality.

Please feel free to contact a legal officer, archivist or registrar if you have questions or would like advice on issues relating to the disclosure of public documents. All department also have an archive coordinator that can help you. 

Your responsibility as an employee

As an employee at Umeå University, you are responsible for releasing documents that you are in charge of if someone requests access to them. If the information in a document is confidential, you are obliged to maintain secrecy and therefore you must not disclose the confidential information. Violation of confidentiality is punishable by law. Therefore, you must always conduct a confidentiality assessment before releasing a document. You must also deal with the issue of disclosure of a public document expeditiously.

Public documents should be easy to find. This means that you should register public documents as soon as the document has been received or created, or alternatively keep documents organised in a way that makes it easy to determine that the document is at the university. Public documents can only be purged (deleted, destroyed) if it is stated in the university's retention and deletion plan (in Swedish)

What is a public document?

A document is considered a public document if it has been submitted to, was drawn up by or is in the keeping of a public authority. Please note that 'document' does not only refer to traditional paper documents. Public documents can also include photographs, databases, maps, drawings, and audio and video recordings. It is irrelevant whether the document is on paper or in electronic form, for instance, email or information in an IT system.

If someone requests access to information held at Umeå University, you need to determine whether the information is contained in a public document.

Here are some general rules for assessing whether the document is public or not:

  • A document is deemed to have been submitted to the University when it has arrived at the University or to an employee of the University.
  • A document is considered to have been drawn up by the University when it has been dispatched, which usually means that the document has been sent to a recipient outside the University.
  • A document which has not been dispatched is considered to have been drawn up when the case to which the document relates is closed. A document that does not belong to a case is considered to have been drawn up when it has been adjusted or otherwise completed, for example when it has been taken care of for archiving.

Although a document is public, it can be protected by confidentiality. This means that you are prohibited to disclose the information by any means, for example in writing or orally (duty of confidentiality). If the document is requested, you must therefore carry out a confidentiality assessment before disclosing the document. You must also deal with the issue of disclosure of a public document expeditiously. Read more on the pages on Confidentiality and professional secrecy and Disclosure of public documents.

What is not a public document?

Certain types of documents are not normally considered official documents, for instance:

  • Memos, which served as the basis for speaking at a meeting or which otherwise only serve as a support for a service person, and summary notes of information contained in other official documents.
  • Drafts and draft decisions, reports or similar, as long as they are not expedited, finalised or recorded for archiving.
  • Internal mail, internal email messages and internal chat messages that are not included in the final processing of a case.
  • Trade union mail or other mail sent to employees in their capacity as holders of a position, for example information provided by a trade union organisation to a seat representative at the University or party post to a politician.
  • Private mail, even if it was sent to the University.

In-depth information about what constitutes public documents can be found in the document Vägledning om offentlighet och sekretess (only in Swedish).

Recordingand archiving

Public documents must be easy to retrieve. This means that they need to be registered in the university's registry or kept in a structured manner.

The purpose of recording and archiving is among other things to;

  • facilitate track-keeping and retrieving of public documents;
  • ensure the public's right to access public documents;
  • ensure the need for information for the administration of justice and administration; and
  • facilitate future research.

Recording and archiving ensure transparency of the University's activities which is an important principle of democracy. You must record public documents as soon as you receive them or they have been drawn up. Note, that it is not recording that determines whether a document is considered public or not, but the document itself.

Public documents may only be deleted (destroyed) if it is stated in the retention and deletion plan. All other documents must be archived and preserved for the future in the University's archives. At Umeå University, the archives are decentralised, which means that documents should be registered and archived at the department or unit where they are drawn up or submitted to.

Read more about recording and archiving at the Records and Archive's pages.

Public documents in administration and management

Incoming mail, whether on paper, e-mail or in an IT system, are normally considered as public documents.

Decisions and dispatching mail are considered public documents when they have been dispatched from the University.

Reports and other documents that are not dispatched become public documents when the case to which they belong is closed or they have been archived.

Public documents in research

Documents belonging to a research project are considered public documents in the same way as other documents. Umeå University is responsible for those documents and they must be handled according to the University's routines.

Research documents may become public when they are:

  • published,
  • drawn up (i.e. laboratory notes),
  • submitted (i.e. answers to a survey).

Read more about the handling of research material.

Umeå University has adopted a research data policy which establishes that research data should be made available for others as far as possible considering ethics, legislation and good scientific practice. Read more about research data management at the university library.

Public documents in education

Examinations become public documents when they are handed to the students at the examination session.

When students hand in a document to their teacher for assessment, this is regarded as submitted to the authority. The same goes for written examinations handed in to an exam invigilator.

Documents uploaded to a learning platform are also considered public documents since they are regarded as submitted. Degree projects and other theses and essays in undergraduate education (first-cycle courses and study programs), are submitted when they are handed in for final assessment. Any supervision prior to handing in the final product does not render the document as submitted and it is hence not regarded as official yet.

Contact information

Contact the Legal Affairs Office on

Data protetion officers, questions regarding personal data management

Legal Affair's Office