Re-Thinking Information Literacy in a Postgraduate Class at a South African Higher Education Institution

Keywords: information literacy, digital literacy, higher education, SCONUL’s Seven Pillars


This paper explores the applicability of a new model of information literacy, SCONUL, developed in the global North, to the South African higher education academic library context with all its enormous challenges of accessibility, transformation, basic education and intellectual awareness. Based on a case study of a postgraduate class in a commerce faculty, the paper draws on a survey and focus groups with students and interviews with lecturers to explore perceptions of information literacy and digital literacy as 21st-century skills that students need to be successful in their studies and the world of work. The findings show that whilst students exhibit confidence (through personal internet confidence) in terms of information literacy, they are not as skilled as they believe themselves to be. They also have a narrow notion of the concept. There are also contradictions in the understanding of the concept of information literacy between librarians, students and lecturers.

Author Biographies

Susanne Doris Noll, University of Cape Town

University of Cape Town Libraries

Subject Librarian


Cheryl Brown, University of Canterbury

Senior lecturer

University of Cape Town

Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT)