It is well known that studying at university for the first time can be problematic for both recent school leavers and mature-aged students. The present study investigated students’ behaviours, expectations and perceptions of university study within the context of a first-year service mathematics subject. The study investigated the perceptions of both on-campus and distance education students using a mixed methodology of surveys, and structured and unstructured interviews. The findings indicate that on-campus students spend significantly less time studying than distance education students, with both groups studying fewer hours than expected by curriculum designers. Further, although students clearly reported the characteristics that they believed defined an effective student, on questioning, few displayed the characteristics in their study practices and few accessed or had the skills to access the available support offered. The implications for academic staff and curriculum designers are briefly discussed, along with the study’s relevance to the students’ experience in the first year of university
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