There has been relatively little research to date that has explored the transition to postgraduate study. This paper reports findings from a project (funded by the UK's Higher Education Academy) that sought to address this gap. The research project was ethnographic and explored university practice and student participation in five UK universities. A significant emergent feature of the research was that a multiplicity of identities construct student experience and contribute to student transition. This finding provides support for learning theory that argues for inextricable links between learning and wider social identities. Moreover, the process of negotiating an academic identity in light of wider experience and university practices emerged as a key factor in understanding transition together with the imperative for independent study, which was a particularly powerful practice that necessitated complex identity negotiations in order to enable full participation in the university community of practice.