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Email guidelines

We aim to use email in a way that enhances internal and external College communication, providing a high level of service for our users and effective productivity for our own operations.

Guidelines on emails and the Law 

This guidance is intended for every member of College staff who creates or receives e-mails as part of carrying out their contract of employment with the College.

  • Do remember that messages sent over the e-mail system can give rise to legal action against the College. Claims of defamation and breach of confidentiality or contract may arise from the misuse of the system.  This applies to all users who send information/material to the College's email and internet system via personal or private facilities.
  • When there is reasonable suspicion that the College computers or networks are being used to store, transmit or transfer data which breaches College regulations, the College’s contractual obligation to third parties or UK law*,  the College will inspect or monitor activity and content to establish the existence of facts, to prevent or detect crime, to investigate or detect unauthorised use of telecommunication systems or, to secure, or as an inherent part of, effective system operation. 
  • The College has the legal right, at any time, to inspect or monitor all data held on College computer equipment, and to inspect or monitor all e-mail and other electronic data entering, leaving, or within, the College network to ensure conformity with UK law**
  • The Data Protection Act permits people to see information that the College holds about them while the Freedom of Information Act gives people the right to access any other recorded information that the College holds, although there are some exemptions when these laws are overridden.  It is advisable to work on the assumption that e-mails you create will be accessible to somebody.

Also worth noting

  • Email messages are “creative works” and therefore copyrighted. The Copyright normally resides automatically with the sender or the employer by default, unless a contractual agreement to the contrary is in place. Thus for staff the copyright owner is the University whereas for students it is the sender. Messages posted to public lists do not lose copyright but the information may be archived or redistributed. Users should take care not to mis-quote, change or mis-attribute messages sent to a list. 
  • Proprietary software and data must not be copied without the express permission of the copyright holders, except for the clearly-defined purpose of safety back-up. 
  • Unauthorised access to a computer (sometimes called "hacking") or unauthorised modification to the contents of a computer (such as the deliberate introduction of viruses) are criminal offences punishable by unlimited fines and up to 5 years imprisonment.   

Applicable Laws

*Regulation of Investigatory Practices Act 2000,  Computer Misuse Act 1990, Telecommunications (Lawful Business Practice) (Interception of Communications) Regulations 2000.

**The Computer Misuse Act 1990, the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.


Email good practice

There are a variety of conventions relating to email, some more helpful than others. These guidelines aim to encourage good practice for RHUL staff.


  • Be aware of the legal guidelines if you use College email for personal purposes
  • Respond promptly whenever possible, or use the out-of-office facility if you are absent for longer than a day or so
  • Always include an informative subject header
  • Keep your Autosignature short and relevant if you use one
  • Familiarise yourself with the “mass mailing” guidelines
  • Keep emails short, and use unformatted text
  • Use reasonable formality - language more suited to face-to-face contact can offend or lead to misunderstanding, especially if you are not personally known to the recipient.
  • Be Legal, decent and honest


  • Don’t use email for material which is strictly confidential (trials with secure email are underway to facilitate use for confidential purposes)
  • Don’t include anything in an email which will cause embarrassment if revealed - emails can and will be disclosed in the legal process
  • Please don’t take offence readily when less formal language is used in email.
  • Do not send unsolicited, non work-related email (spam).
  • Don't mark messages as urgent unless they really do require instant attention
  • Don't ever forward on chain letters
  • Don't ever forward virus alerts other (most are hoaxes) – get the professionals to do it officially.
  • Don't include personal or other abuse in messages

Student email addresses

All students are provided with a Royal Holloway address and mailbox. Official communications from the College to the student will use this mailbox and departments may require course-work submitted electronically to come from this address. Students may forward mail from the College address to a personal mailbox of their choice and personal mailboxes will be accessible from College systems where technically possible.

Responding promptly and the ‘Out of Office’ facility

People generally anticipate a rapid response when sending email, although this expectation may be unreasonable. To manage this expectation you should indicate when an email enquiry will receive attention or use the out-of-office facility:

  • Aim to respond to email within a working day either by dealing with the enquiry or by sending an acknowledgement
  • Set an ‘out-of-office’ message for absences of more than one day. The message should make clear how the correspondent might proceed with an urgent query in your absence
  • Nominate a colleague to read and respond to messages for staff who are away for long periods

Function-led email addresses

The anonymity of function-led email addresses (eg any-enquiries@rhul.ac.uk) means that a prompt response mechanism is even more important than a personal mailbox – senders have identified the address as a main point of contact, and the expectation of a rapid response or helpful acknowledgement is greater.

Incoming junk/spam mail

The College is making active efforts to control spam mail. Incoming mail passes through a spam trap which marks likely spam with a numerical score and a special addition to the subject heading. Mail recipients can then use mail filters to delete or move the messages away from the Inbox. In due course we intend to refuse to accept messages with a high spam score.

Auto signatures

Many staff adopt an AutoSignature to automatically add contact details to mail messages. Keep these short and to the point, and don’t exceed five lines – include your name, job title and/or department, phone number, email address and the College web address. Eg:

Jo Bloggs
Departmental Administrator, Any Old Department
Royal Holloway, University of London
Tel : 01784 XXXXXX
Fax : 01784 XXXXXX
Email : j.bloggs@rhul.ac.uk

Email circulation

Before circulating information (mailing an identifiable group rather than a few individuals) please think carefully about the most effective channel of communication: Many staff are sensitive to receiving what they consider to be spam email. Some guidelines follow for different categories of people.

Please restrict your use of College mailing lists to material which is of essential College relevance. Please don’t repeat messages (and certainly don’t send around a second message which is just an apology for a mistake in the first) and don’t send objections about messages to the whole list. Please report** it to an administrator rather than starting an email storm of complaints and counter-complaints.

In general attachments should not be circulated round mailing lists – please seek advice** about placing formatted information on the web/intranet and emailing a link to it rather than clogging mailboxes.

General information of interest to a majority of staff

Use the Campus Intranet – send your information to Intranet@rhul.ac.uk, and it will be placed on the online message board within 24 hours.

The Intranet Message Board is restricted to campus access only and displays messages of interest to staff on a rolling basis in the order that they are submitted. The service is backed up by a weekly digest email to all staff, listing all messages posted online in the previous week. This is compiled and sent out by the Intranet Team on a Monday each week.

If you have very urgent or highly important information to share ask Intranet to mail your message to all staff. Intranet will send an email to all staff on your behalf, but only in exceptional circumstances.

Bulletin Box - announcements of interest to all staff

Bulletin Box is exclusively used by the Principal to address all staff with the most urgent or important news and announcements. Bulletin Box messages are sent to all staff and circulation may also include all students.

Targeted information to reach a minority of staff

There are numerous email distribution lists to propagate information to individual offices or groups. These can be found in the Outlook Global Address List but you will find helpful information available from the Campus Classified page on the Intranet. No more than 4 lists should be aggregated in any one mailing.

Main circulation lists

a) RH Dept Heads (includes The Head of each Academic department)

b) RH Dept Contacts (includes a single point of contact in each Academic department, typically Department Administrators/Secretaries).

c) RH Admin Heads (a single point of contact in each Academic Service or Administration department)

d) RH Admin Contacts (a single point of contact in each Academic Service or Administration department, typically Department Administrators/Secretaries).

e) All Staff (incl. all staff); RHUL staff (incl. all staff other than Central Administration); Administration (incl. those staff who are not on RHUL staff) - there is very limited access to these lists – Intranet is the main sender.

General information of interest to a majority of students

a) Use the Campus Noticeboard facility – post your messages and they will appear on the board within one working day.

b) All Students email distribution list: there is very limited access to this list – Intranet is the main sender and will send messages to all students in exceptional circumstances or for established routine communications of interest to the majority of students.

**Reporting - if in doubt - please seek advice from the Intranet Team (based in the Communications and External Relations Office.)


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