Developing Viable Study Practices and Student Identities

An Investigation of First-Year Students' Work with Decoding, Navigating and Negotiating the Cultural Norms of Their Study Programme

PhD defenceAndrea Fransiska Møller Gregersen

Doctoral candidate

Andrea Fransiska Møller Gregersen


This thesis investigates first-year university students’ encounter with their study programme. When new students enter a university programme, they enter a new cultural context with certain norms for how to be a student and certain disciplinary practices and expectations that the students must learn to decode and navigate. The aim with the thesis has been to investigate the complex processes of ‘becoming a student’, including how the students develop their study practices and student identities.

The PhD project has followed first-year students in three study programmes at the university of Copenhagen: Film and media studies, philosophy, and biotechnology. The thesis builds on a qualitative research design that draws on a range of methods: group interviews, video diaries, workshops and individual interviews.

The thesis shows that the process of developing study practices is an interplay between the students' trying out, receiving feedback from the programme, working on decoding expectations, and balancing this with their initial motivations and interests.
The findings also shows that the social and informal activities are important for the students' sense of belonging, as well as how they manage the academic challenges. The students' identity work consists of decoding expectations, navigating and negotiating identity. This proves to be challenging for some students, and the study shows that there are some subtle exclusion mechanisms at play. Furthermore, the thesis shows that there are differences between the three study cultures and expectations to the students.

Download the synopsis.


Frederik Voetmann Christensen, Associate Professor, Department of Science Education, UCPH

Assesment Comittee

Lene Møller Madsen, Associate Professor, Department of Science Education, UCPH

Billy Wong, Associate Professor, University of Reading

Rachel Brooks, Professor, University of Surrey


Lars Ulriksen, Professor, Department of Science Education, UCPH


Henriette T. Holmegaard, Associate Professor, Department of Science Education, UCPH

The defence will take place in zoom.