Human Tissue Authority

The regulator for human tissue and organs

Storage of human material for teaching by schools and colleges

Some schools and colleges store human material for use in teaching. Such specimens could include cells on a microscope slide, specimens preserved in formalin, skulls, and partial or complete skeletons. 

Under the Human Tissue Act 2004 (‘the HT Act’), human material which contains cells is called ‘relevant material’.

Our view is that:

  1. human material used for teaching biology in schools is not being stored for a scheduled purpose under the HT Act. These schools do not require an HTA licence to store human material for teaching.
  2. colleges providing courses with a specific healthcare focus, which are intended to lead to professional registration, such as nursing or dental nursing, which use human material in teaching, are storing relevant material for the scheduled purpose of ‘education or training relating to human health’. 

Institutions storing human material removed from the deceased for ‘education or training relating to human health’ require an HTA licence, unless the material was removed from a person who died before 1 September 2006 and more than one hundred years have passed since their death. An institution wanting to acquire human material for teaching should also follow the guidance in the HTA’s Code of practice on Consent.

You should contact us if your college stores, or wants to acquire, human material for teaching.

Public display

 We define ‘public display’ as "an exhibition, show or display in which a body of a deceased person or relevant material which has come from the body of a deceased person is used for the purpose of being exposed to view by the public.”

You should contact us if your institution intends to put human material on public display as a licence might be required by law.

Disposal of unwanted teaching specimens

If specimens are no longer wanted for teaching or private study, a HTA-licensed establishment may be willing to help you, for example:

  • a local medical school, which could make use of the specimens for teaching, or
  • a local hospital mortuary, which could dispose of the specimens in a respectful manner

If you need further information on storage, use or disposal of human material, please contact us.

Download the Position statement on storage of human material for teaching by schools and college as a PDF

Reviewed January 2014

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