The classification provides a hierarchical structure for the categorisation of higher education courses, specialisations and units of study. The classification describes field of education groupings at three levels. The levels are as follows:
- Level I: 12 broad fields of education (2 digit code, e.g. 01, for Natural and Physical Sciences)
- Level II: 83 narrow fields of education (4 digit code including the relevant Level I code)
- each broad field of education is subdivided into narrow fields of education, the number of which varies from one broad group to another. Narrow fields of education have a 4 digit numeric code (e.g. 0101 for Mathematical Sciences), the first two digits of which comprise the code for the broad field of education within which the field of education is located (e.g. 01 for Natural and Physical Sciences).
- Level III: 439 detailed fields of education (6 digit code including the relevant Level I and Level II codes).
- each narrow field of education is subdivided into detailed fields of education, the number of which varies from one narrow group to another. Detailed field of education groups have a 6 digit numeric code (e.g. 010101 for Mathematics), the first 2 digits of which comprise the code for the broad field of education within which the fields of education are located (e.g. 01 for Natural and Physical Sciences), while the first 4 digits comprise the code for the narrow field of education within which each field of education is located.
The classification uses the concept of vocational emphasis for coding. Field of education groupings of courses and specialisations are on the basis of similarity of potential vocations rather than similarity of content. Units of study are coded on the basis of a likeness in terms of their subject matter.
"Other" and "Not elsewhere classified" categories are included within narrow and detailed fields to enable classification of courses, specialisations and units of study which are very specific but cannot be allocated to one of the available categories.
Applying the classification
Courses and Specialisations
Each course and specialisation should be considered in terms of its vocational emphasis. If no specific vocational emphasis can be imputed then principal subject matter should be used to determine the most appropriate category. The level of award to which a course leads does not need to be taken into account, as the classification is designed to be independent of award level.
As higher education providers have different course structures and recording mechanisms, some are able to provide course data for each specialist area and others are not. Furthermore, some institutions may provide multi/interdisciplinary courses for which a specific detailed field of education code is not provided. In these circumstances, codes ending in 00 or 0000 should be used. These categories should be used only when a course meets one of the following criteria:
- it is a general course which includes more than one study area, including multi/interdisciplinary and where there is not one predominant study area; or
- it is a course which includes more than one study area but where, due to administrative recording systems, it is not possible to determine which is the predominant study area.
If a course includes a significant proportion of studies in more than one narrow field of education (Level II) within a specific broad field it should be classified to the broad field of education comprising the narrow fields of education. For example, a Bachelor of Architecture and Building which should be coded to 040000. Similarly, a course comprising a significant proportion of studies in more than one detailed field within a specific narrow field should be coded to the narrow field (these end in 00) which comprises the detailed fields. For example, a Bachelor of Agriculture which comprises a significant mix of both Agricultural Science (code 050101) and Animal Husbandry (code 050105) should be coded to the narrow field Agriculture (code 050100).
Narrow field of education categories entitled "other" should be used for courses which have a specific subject focus within the broad field which is not specified as a narrow field in the classification. Similarly, detailed field of education categories entitled "not elsewhere classified" are to be used for courses which have a specific subject focus within a narrow field which is not specified as a detailed field in the classification.
If an institution still cannot determine to which field of education a course should be classified, it should consult with the department to decide on an appropriate code.
Units of Study
Units of study must be classified to one of the 83 narrow fields of education or 439 detailed fields of education.
Units of study are coded to the classification without regard to the type of the Academic Organisational Unit (AOU) responsible for the unit of study being coded. For example, in the one institution, a "mathematics for engineers" unit might be taught by an Engineering AOU and a "pure mathematics" unit by a Science AOU. Both units could be coded to the detailed fields of education 010101 (Mathematics). If the "mathematics for engineers" unit was to be taught by the Science AOU, or the "pure mathematics" unit by the Engineering AOU, both units would still be coded to the detailed fields of education 010101.
Units of study relating to "research methods" are to be coded to the field of education which is appropriate to the discipline for which the research methods were developed.