The Cambridge Curriculum for Information Literacy

Emma Coonan and Jane Secker

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 take 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.

This short project seeks to develop a practical curriculum for information literacy that meets the needs of the undergraduate student entering higher education over the next five years. It will consult widely with experts in the information literacy field, and also those working in curriculum design and educational technologies.

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


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.