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Durham University

Information Governance

Folder Structures

A key to good information management is to implement and maintain a clear and meaningful folder structure to hold documents with clear and meaningful names. This applies to both the paper and electronic environments.

JISC have produced a model folder structure for the records of a higher education institution (see the link opposite). This model is quite "high level" so does not provide a structure which can be instantly adopted. It does provide a starting point for any team to begin to develop their own folder structure. Open the link and begin by scrolling along the tabs at the bottom of the Excel spreadsheet to find the Function that matches the work of your team (there may be more than one). The structure has been developed using the "FAT" model - i.e. it identifies all the functions in a typical HEI, then breaks the each FUNCTION down into its constituent ACTIVITIES, then describes the TRANSACTIONS that constitute each activity. This forms the basis then for a hierarchical folder structure, just like a family tree.

Well-managed folder structures derived using the FAT model are recommended as they:

  • stand the test of time, as folder structures are not based on team names which change or staff who leave
  • dierctly map onto the business of the institution and are therefore logical and meaningful to all users
  • can be easily extended as new functions develop
  • can easily cope with movement of functions between teams
  • prevent unnecessary duplication of folders
  • help identify master documents
  • allow efficient review and disposal to take place at folder level, rather than at individual document level, as documents with the same retention period are stored together in the same folder.

It is recommended that staff use the JISC model to help to document all of their respective team functions, activities and transactions, which will then become their folder structure. Please contact the Information Governance Unit if you would like any help to do this.

The folder structure should be capable of being used for both paper and electronic folders. For electronic folders, the structure should be implemented in your team shared drive, where all team members can file documents into it.