This article presents the results of two recent empirical investigations at universities in South Africa (University of Pretoria and University of South Africa) where an attempt was made to identify the pre- and post-enrolment factors that lecturers and students perceived as having the most important influence on students' success in their university studies. The opinions of lecturers were compared with those of various groups of undergraduate students within and across the two universities. Different genders, different years of study, different home languages, different languages of instruction, and different modes of study (contact and distance education) were considered.
The investigations revealed a strong level of agreement between lecturers and students
concerning most factors that were identified as being likely to contribute to students' academic success. However, there was considerable diversity in the opinions of lecturers and students concerning the factors that were identified as being likely to contribute to students' failure at
university. These differences were more pronounced at the distance education institution than at the contact university. At both universities the results of the studies pointed to a number of instructional practices that seem to be limiting the opportunities for students to develop the levels of understanding and insight that lecturers expect of undergraduates. The studies also showed that some students were taking counter-productive approaches to their study.