Academic Repositories: What are they?

A ‘repository’ is where items (or data) are stored.

A digital repository is a place for storing any documents, files or data online.

So, what is an academic repository? An academic repository is a specifically designed digital repository used by universities all around the world to store their documents.

What type of documents might you see stored in an academic repository?


Below is a list of the most common documents stored by universities:

  • PhDs and Masters’ Theses
  • Books
  • Book chapters
  • Academic publications (journal papers)
  • Undergraduate essays and dissertations
  • Reports
  • Inaugural lectures
  • Bibliographies


An academic repository allows researchers, students and other members of academic staff to preserve their documents in an easily manageable cloud-based system. With many academic repositories, the level of openness surrounding the contained content of each submission can be determined. This allows the content to be available to people who wish to read it inside and outside of the university if it is freely available. It also allows researchers to put an embargo, or specific filters, on their document to limit who can see it. This is common for sensitive content, such as research in a thesis which has potentially viable content for a patent, or contains content that is wanted to be kept secret, but at a time when the thesis must be added into the repository in order to graduate.


Often, repositories will offer many search functions for the user and will allow researchers to isolate documents based on key words and subject, amongst other criteria. To store data in a repository, filling out forms to the university is often required and is mainly used to obtain the metadata, set the level of embargo on the manuscript and to confirm from a legal perspective that the researcher is happy to place the content on the cloud and it doesn’t infringe on any copyright or other intellectual property.


Why do universities need academic repositories?

The presence of an internal infrastructure to store, manage, re-use and curate digital materials is increasingly important as the cost of purchasing and storing physical copies of books, journals and student manuscripts is a burden faced by most universities. There is only a finite amount of space within universities, namely in the libraries, to store such an amount of printed content.


In this all-digital age, it is now easier than ever to store academic content on file and in ‘the cloud’, saving on such space and helping to stop university libraries from becoming overcrowded.


A second consideration towards the digital movement is the cost of journals. Academic journals are becoming more and more costly, especially as a lot of journals have predominantly moved to digital formats, raising the price of the less-popular printed publication versions. Whilst it is true that the cost of digital journals is increasing, the cost is not anywhere near that of printed journals and digital copies can be easily stored and used by people inside the university with ease.


Repositories are there to help store content, such as journals, to be easily used by people within the university itself, but the presence of an easily accessible and searchable system allows for the research produced within the university to be accessible for everyone to see: this is particularly true for journal publications which often sit behind a paywall (unless open access) on the original journal website, but are often freely available through university repositories.


What benefits are there for using an academic repository?

There are a number of benefits for both the researchers and institutions involved, but the most prevalent benefits are:

  • Easier for your publications to be included in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) or other similar academic frameworks measuring research quality
  • Enabling fast, simultaneous remote access to deposits
  • Allowing institutions to manage their own records and intellectual assets efficiently
  • Makes the documents easy to reuse for new lectures, research, seminars etc.
  • Minimizes physical storage requirements
  • Enables both the metadata and intellectual object to be in the same location
  • Allows for an external validation of research results
  • Enables persistent access to deposits
  • Increases research visibility
  • Increases the potential return of investment (ROI) from assets
  • Allows for a long-term proof of authorship, assurance and credibility for unpublished papers



University of Kent -

Niigata University:

University of Amsterdam:

European Library:

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