At the core of higher education is the experience of students whose focus for learning is often directed towards their future employability. In this paper, we explore the intersections between two large international research projects involving over 500 students. Interviews with students yielded their conceptions of learning and work in specific discipline and professional areas. Analysis of the Swedish and Australian data sets showed the important interplay between students' individual ideas about learning and future work with their workplace. A meta-analysis of the two projects highlights the utility of higher education for students' future working life and suggests ways in which institutions and policy makers can critique current practice in a way that will incline curriculum and teaching development towards professional formation.