This paper reports on a study into how the cultural expectations of the roles of students and teachers impact on the lived experience of higher education students. Specifically, the paper discusses ways in which academics and students perceive the theoretical and practical sides of the front-end loading programs in which they are involved. The paper takes an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural approach in drawing from data sets collected from students and staff in both a UK medicine program and also an Australian teacher education program. As such, it responds to the aim of the AARE-APERA conference to enrich global cooperation in educational research. Giddens' (2003) sociological theory of "structuration" was selected as a framework for the study because it enables insight into how individuals make meaning and identity through their circumstances and endeavours. The theory provided useful in demonstrating how we understand, and thus educate for, the roles of professionals, including doctors and teachers, in society. The discussion and findings of the paper contribute to the international literature on professional culture and identity, work-integrated learning and the enactment of theory and practice in university front-end loading programs.