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An exploration of university student perceptions of discipline: Introducing F.I.R.S.T. discipline principles

Hana Krskova (Department of Marketing, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)
Yvonne Breyer (Department of Management, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)
Chris Baumann (Department of Marketing, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia) (Seoul National University, Seoul, The Republic of Korea)
Leigh Norma Wood (Macquarie Business School, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 25 July 2019

Issue publication date: 20 January 2020




The role of discipline in achieving higher academic and workplace performance is receiving increasing attention; however, research into student discipline has historically centred on schools. The purpose of this paper is to explore how university students from multiple faculties and at different stages of academic progression understand discipline in higher education, with the aim to investigate how graduates could become more disciplined and more work ready.


This study adopted a qualitative exploratory approach. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with university students and analysed using thematic analysis.


The students viewed discipline as internally driven as opposed to being enforced externally, which is often the case in schools. Five main themes were identified as discipline dimensions: “focus”, “intention”, “responsibility”, “structure” and “time” (F.I.R.S.T.).


A new concept of discipline is presented, underpinned by a conceptual framework comprised of self-determination, goal-setting, self-efficacy, self-regulation and time management principles. A “Threshold Concept of Discipline”, a hierarchical four-layered concept that develops over time for every individual with the ultimate level being “Creative Discipline”, is proposed. These findings illuminate learning strategies that higher education institutions can use to further enhance learning and increase the work readiness of their graduates. Such strategies can empower students who aspire to perform at a higher level and to become true professionals.



No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors. An earlier version of this article formed part of a thesis presented for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Macquarie University. The authors wish to thank the Editor of Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning for her kind guidance, and the authors wish to acknowledge the useful input from the anonymous reviewers. The authors would also like to thank the participants who shared their experiences and Glyn Mather for her support and help.


Krskova, H., Breyer, Y., Baumann, C. and Wood, L.N. (2020), "An exploration of university student perceptions of discipline: Introducing F.I.R.S.T. discipline principles", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 61-82.



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