“What do you enjoy most about studying at Cambridge?”

“What do you find most frustrating about studying at Cambridge?”

These were two of the questions we asked students during the Futurelib ‘Student Learning Journey’ project, which took place between October 2017 and May 2018. A broad, in-depth, qualitative research exercise, the project aimed to uncover insights about the experience of taught students at the University of Cambridge that could be used to inform continued service design and delivery on the part of Cambridge University Libraries.

Working with participants over the course of the 2017/18 academic year provided the opportunity to capture the voices of a wide range of Cambridge students, which are represented in the outputs for the project. Developing this deeper understanding of who these students are will allow for the development of Cambridge library services that continue to be meaningful to them and a valuable part of their lives.

The findings of the Student Learning Journey research are presented thematically in the project outputs (linked to from this page). There are too many to list in this post, but some of the more surprising and interesting include:

  • A conflict for students who are aware that they need to do well in exams and other forms of assessment, across a wide range of topics, but who are also looking to develop skills they can apply in research.
  • A strong perception from students of Cambridge libraries being safe, welcoming, inclusive spaces.
  • The importance of inter-personal relationships in shaping the Cambridge student experience.
  • The ways in which Cambridge students are increasingly mobile, approaching various aspects of their studies when on the go and away from University physical and digital infrastructure.

A key focus of our work was gathering data and insights to inform the work of the Cambridge Information Literacy Network (CILN), which is working to develop information-related services and opportunities for students across Cambridge, pre- and post-arrival. A CILN-specific report can be found as an appendix to the full Student Learning Journey project report.

Alongside the full project report sit an executive summary and a Shorthand web story, which provides an engaging way of accessing the key findings and opportunities arrived at over the course of the project.

Huge thanks go to the members of the University and its colleges, within and outside of libraries, who supported and enabled our work. The acknowledgements section of the full report provides a very clear impression of the institutional-wide nature of the project. Special thanks also to the fantastic Student Learning Journey project team.

We feel that the insights gained through this work prove the value of conducting in-depth, qualitative research work with those people that are likely to encounter our libraries and services. It would have been difficult to arrive at this deep level of understanding through more traditional, quantitative methods and measures such as satisfaction surveys and usage statistics.

We look forward to sharing and discussing our work with those involved in various areas of education and student support at Cambridge, as we feel that some of our findings might be of interest to individuals outside of Cambridge libraries.

Download the full Student Learning Journey project report

Download the executive summary

View the Shorthand web story


David Marshall

Futurelib Programme