University of Otago - Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo University of Otago Functional Classification Scheme

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Classification Elements

You can see from the following examples that you would still be naming your records/files/folders just as you were before, but that there is now a hierarchy at the higher levels to determine where your files and folders of information ‘fit’ within the organisation as a whole in terms of the function and activity that is being performed.

Organisational-BasedFunction - Activity
Divisional BoardOperational Management – Operational Committees – Divisional Board
University of AucklandPublic Affairs & Communication – Relationship Management – NZ Tertiary Institutions - University of Auckland
Departmental ReviewsAudit & Quality Management – Quality Improvement – Administrative & Academic Reviews – Departmental Review
ConferencesHuman Resources – Staff Development & Performance – Conferences
VisitsPublic Affairs & Communication – Events & Ceremonies – Visits
Lecture TimetablesAcademic Programme Management – Course Administration – Timetabling
Examination ResultsAcademic Programme Management – Student Assessment – Results
Financial AuditAudit & Quality Management – External Audits – Financial Audit
Research Grant Funding

Financial Management – External Revenue - by name, e.g.: Marsden, for use by Financial Services Division

Research Management – Funding Administration - by name of funding body, use for applications, correspondence etc

Schools Open DaysStudent Administration – Student Recruitment – School Visits






What is a Classification Scheme?

A Classification Scheme (also known as a file plan) organises information into logical groups.  It is used to describe and organise both electronic files and paper files.







Why do we need an organisation-wide Classification Scheme?

A classification scheme:

  • Improves search and retrieval times for information
  • Captures and structures information for use and reuse
  • Reduces duplication
  • Links records to the General Disposal Authority to enable us to assign and control retention periods
  • Provides context about a record or groups of records, especially in an electronic environment
  • Provides consistent description and categorisation of records across paper and electronic formats
  • Provides links between records that originate from the same or related activities
  • Determines where a record should be placed in a larger aggregation of records
  • Helps us to assign and control access rights to groups of records

The classification scheme will provide a central strand across the University both in terms of bringing together different locations (multiple campus sites across NZ) and different formats (paper and electronic); it attempts to present a central point of reference within a much decentralised environment.








Why does the Classification Scheme look like this?

On the whole, the university uses organisational-based classification schemes, i.e. schemes based on the divisions, departments or faculties of the university as described by the Organisational Chart because it is a very familiar and recognisable structure to end users. Under this type of scheme, titles for files and folders are often derived from the organisational unit in which they were created, with little or no thought as to where these records “fit” into the organisation as a whole.

While organisational-based schemes are relatively easy to follow, and allow related issues to be kept together in the same file series, they do have a number of disadvantages.  For example:

  • Organisation structures change more often than functions, and more arbitrarily, necessitating frequent changes in the way records are organised within an organisational file plan.
  • There are more duplicate files created across the organisation.
  • It is often unclear as to who is the “owner” of the file as it becomes more difficult to locate information over time as those who remember earlier organisational arrangements gradually leave University employment.

This model is a functional-based classification scheme which focuses on the functions and activities of the university.

The advantage of such a structure is that it is relatively stable in the long term and requires minimal adjustment if there is organisational change as additions and deletions can be made without undermining the scheme itself.  Similarly, if the name of a particular school or section changes (which within the University is certainly not uncommon), or administrative units that perform related activities merge or spilt, the function would remain as is and the file structure itself would remain unaffected. 

A functional-based scheme also makes it easier to manage the records throughout their life-cycle, from the time of creation through to disposal because:

  • It facilitates the early identification and description of records of archival value. This is especially true of records in the electronic environment, where the early identification of their value is essential to their long-term survival.
  • It enables the university to keep information of like kind together.
  • It facilitates the management of disposal within the university since disposal rules are assigned and operate at a function and activity level.

The disadvantages of adopting a functional-based classification scheme are:

  • It does require a significant change in ‘thinking’ because it asks staff to organise information according to the function and activity performed, NOT according to where one sits administratively within the organisation.
  • A strictly functional approach does not support case files/comprehensive files well because the contents of the one file will technically belong under a number of different activities, or even functions. Thus we need to allow flexibility in the scheme to include the compilation of comprehensive files, whilst recognising that they are not strictly a ‘business activity’ (they are an administrative arrangement for expediency). Part of the consultation and feedback process will involve determining which areas create these types of files so that we can allow their inclusion into the scheme.

Function-based classification is considered good information management practice and is widely used across public and private organisations both here in New Zealand and overseas.