Research background

ANCIL is the product of a two-phase research fellowship funded by the Arcadia Programme at Cambridge University Library. The original project research by Jane Secker & Emma Coonan (May-July 2011) produced A New Curriculum for Information Literacy, a structured and holistic framework for meeting the information literacy needs of undergraduates entering higher education over the next five years. A second phase researched by Helen Webster and Katy Wrathall (October-December 2011) looked at Strategies for Implementing the New Curriculum at a number of UK higher education institutions, including Cambridge.

The project was originally called the Cambridge Curriculum for Information Literacy, but renamed as A New Curriculum for Information Literacy (ANCIL) in July 2011.

Project aims and objectives

  • To understand the information needs of future undergraduate students on entering higher education
  • To develop a revolutionary curriculum for information literacy that can be used with undergraduate students entering UK higher education
  • To  equip students with the knowledge, skills and behaviour around information use to support their learning in the digital age
  • To develop a flexible curriculum that can be used and adapted in a variety of settings
  • To support face to face, blended and online learning provision


Information literacy is widely recognised as a key part of lifelong independent learning. It has been defined as “… knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner” (CILIP, 2004). Meanwhile, UNESCO takes a broader view that goes beyond learning, stating that:

Information literacy empowers people in all walks of life to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals. It is a basic human right in a digital world and promotes social inclusion in all nations.
UNESCO (2005) Alexandria Proclamation

Information literacy can be defined as a set of skills, attributes and behaviour that underpins student learning in the digital age. It has been linked to graduate employability and increasingly UK universities are developing information literacy strategies to inform how they ensure students acquire these competencies during their undergraduate studies. Information literacy programmes or sessions are often run by academic libraries; however, in order to be most effective, experts recognise that information literacy should be embedded within a subject curriculum and ideally taught in partnership with academic and academic support colleagues, rather than in one-off sessions run by librarians.

SCONUL’s Seven Pillars of Information Literacy model, widely accepted in higher education, sets out the skills and attributes that an information literate person should have. In practical terms, however, how information literacy is taught varies widely across higher education. In addition, recent research suggests that the information-seeking behaviour and needs of students are changing (CIBER, 2008), largely driven by the changing experiences and expectations of ‘the Google Generation’ who have grown up with access to the internet being the norm. While the Google Generation and ‘Digital Native’ terms have been debated and widely criticised (Jones, et al, 2010), it is clear that information literacy programmes over the next five years will need to adapt and respond to the needs of current students.

Curriculum attributes

The New Curriculum is intended to be flexible and adaptable such that it can be implemented in any HEI. In line with both CILIP’s and UNESCO’s visions, the curriculum is grounded in a view of IL as fundamental to the ongoing development of the individual in both an academic and a social context. As such, it will possess the following attributes:

  • holistic: supporting the whole process of researching and writing rather than just teaching traditional library skills
  • modular: ongoing classes to meet the developing needs of students during their whole academic career, not just one-shot sessions
  • embedded and flexible: can be implemented and taught not only by librarians but by study skills advisors, learning developers, supervisors and lecturers (depending on the needs and structure of the institution)
  • active and assessed: containing a significant element of active and reflective learning, including peer assessment elements, in order to help students develop into informed and autonomous learners
  • grounded in a very broad reading of ‘information literacy’ which sees IL not as a set of competencies but as a fundamental attribute of the discerning scholar, and as a crucial social and personal element in the digital age.


CIBER (2008) Information behaviour of the researcher of the future. A CIBER Briefing paper. Available at:

Jones, C, Ramanau, R, Cross, S and Healing, G (2010) ‘Net generation or Digital Natives: Is there a distinct new generation entering university?’, Computers & Education, 54, (3), 722-732.

1 Response to Research background

  1. Pingback: Informationskompetenz: Das Sapere aude! der digitalen Welt | Informationskompetenz

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