Skip to main content

Exploring perceptions of the co-curricular Skills@Library service

Exploring perceptions of the co-curricular Skills@Library service

Michelle Schneider (Skills@library)

Project Overview

The aim of this 12 month project is to investigate how the Skills@Library (S@L) co-curricular service is perceived by staff and students and the impact this has on engagement. Of particular concern is whether the service is perceived as “remedial”, leading to students thinking of themselves as the problem- that it is they who need fixing.

This research will inform the development of new practices that ensure all students benefit from an empowering and developmental service; one that enables them to better understand “the rules” of academia and to make their own, informed decisions about their work and learning, perhaps even breaking those rules to challenge the status quo. This emancipatory approach is a core value of Learning Development.

Key findings

  • There is no significant correlation between students’ self-efficacy and their use or perception of the service
  • Students consider that they should only be expected to have a minimal level of academic skills for university study upon starting their degree (and therefore no deficit should be perceived). Staff expectations of students’ skills level seems to be higher than students’.
  • Students’ perceptions of the purpose of the Skills@Library service were varied, but in the main the students used positive language like ‘development’, ‘enhance’ or ‘improve’. Staff perceptions were more likely to view student use as remedial and they used more negative terminology such as ‘failing’, ‘desperate’, ‘struggling’.
  • Students expect the ‘University’ but in particular, their school, to take responsibility for helping them develop the required academic skills. Some students stated the importance of this being carried out in collaboration with the Library and other professional colleagues.
  • Students want to be able to access co-curricular opportunities for academic skills development in addition to, but not instead of, embedded. Staff were more likely to perceive Skills@Library as a ‘fixing service’ for what cannot be covered in the curriculum (deficit model).


  • To change the perception of students being in deficit to one where we recognise that our students come to university with varied valuable experiences and that we can amplify and build on their existing academic skills.
  • All staff should use language that reflects a developmental approach to students’ skills and literacies and to move away from deficit terminology such as students’ ‘lack of…’ ‘issues with…’ ‘inability to…’
  • Programme and module leads should work in partnership with the Learning Development Team to build in, and not bolt on, academic skills and literacies into the curriculum. Curriculum Redefined offers an opportunity to tackle this in a creative and sustainable way.
  • The Learning Development Team should work in partnership with students to review the Skills@Library co-curricular offer and ensure we are not perpetuating the deficit approach.
  • Consider novel approaches to improve the communications around the role of Skills@Library to staff and students to emphasise the service as complementary to but not a replacement for embedded skills and literacies development.

If you want to find out more details about this fellowship or what the next steps were upon completion please read the full snapshot (PDF) or contact Michelle (

Project start date: January 2022