The notion of the student experience has risen in prominence in response to changing student cohorts, reforms to the higher education system and broader societal and technological trends. Indeed, contemporary notions of the student experience extend well beyond the traditional focus on curriculum, assessment and pedagogy to include the extracurricular activities of students and how universities respond to help students manage their external commitments. Yet, while the term is frequently used, definitions remain elusive. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to deconstruct the student experience by considering the various factors that influence the experience of students in the higher education system. Based on a review of the wide-ranging literature in the field, this article presents a conceptual framework of dimensions that impact on the student experience. The identified dimensions include: institutional factors, student factors, sectoral factors and external factors, each encapsulating a variety of dimensions. The objective of the article is to provide educators in tourism, hospitality and related fields with a contemporary understanding of the key debates and themes related to the student experience in the higher education field.