First year university students’ perception of autonomy: An individualistic approach

Feng DING, Baohua YU

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Autonomy has been considered both as a precondition and a crucial learning outcome of higher education. Recent research has been focusing on measuring university students’ autonomy or its development. However, whether and how students’ autonomy can be measured quantitatively is still debatable. Although autonomy is known as a changing process and varies among individuals, it is agreed that students’ learning behaviours are largely affected by their perceptions; very few studies, however, have examined students’ own perception of autonomy. This study, therefore, adopts a longitudinal qualitative approach to investigate the changes in students’ own perceptions of autonomy over five different times during their first-year study in a Hong Kong University, and examine the relationship between the perceptions and behaviours of their autonomy. Using in-depth semi-structured interviews with eight first-year students, the study found that although the participants held some common understanding of autonomy, they also demonstrated various interpretations of this concept. They also had a slightly different focus on different dimensions of autonomy, which were affected by their own individual experiences. An individualistic approach is therefore proposed to understand students’ development of autonomy. Copyright © 2022 Informa UK Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-224
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Issue number2
Early online date01 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


Ding, F., & Yu, B. (2022). First year university students’ perception of autonomy: An individualistic approach. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 46(2), 211-224. doi: 10.1080/0309877X.2021.1905154


  • Perception of autonomy
  • Higher education
  • First-year university students
  • Measurement of autonomy


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