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Student expectations of teaching and learning when starting university: a systematic review

Tomlinson, Amy; Simpson, Andrew; Killingback, Clare



Student expectations are complex constructs that can influence adaptability, engagement, achievement, satisfaction and retention. A number of individual studies have been published on the expectations of students when starting university, however none that synthesise student expectations of teaching and learning. Therefore, the aim of this systematic review was to understand student expectations of teaching and learning when starting university. A systematic search strategy identified 2950 studies, of which nine met all eligibility criteria. Relevant data was extracted and a narrative synthesis conducted, revealing four key themes: additional study, self-managing learning, teaching and learning activities, and accessibility. Students expect to complete additional study and take responsibility for their own learning, but may be unsure how to manage this. They expect to have to attend all sessions and commonly expect lectures, but thoughts on other methods of teaching and learning vary. Students also have high expectations of teaching staff, particularly with regards to access and resources. This knowledge is important in enabling teaching staff to better align preconceived ideas of university teaching and learning with reality, support a positive university experience, and improve satisfaction and retention. Future research should further investigate student expectations of teaching and learning independently, perhaps from a qualitative perspective, as well as exploring interventions to help manage these expectations when necessary.


Tomlinson, A., Simpson, A., & Killingback, C. (2023). Student expectations of teaching and learning when starting university: a systematic review. Journal of Further and Higher Education,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 3, 2023
Online Publication Date May 19, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date May 19, 2023
Publicly Available Date May 22, 2023
Print ISSN 0309-877X
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Student expectations; Teaching and learning; First year; Higher education; University
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Copyright Statement
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.

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