Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine accounting students’ experience of compulsory group work. The paper hypothesises that a student-centered style of teaching-involving activities, like case studies and group-based learning encourages students to take a deeper approach to learning. The paper also sought students’ suggestions to improve learning in a group environment and to identify areas for future research. Design/methodology/approach – There is a paucity of research that examines the relationships between group work and the adoption of a deep learning approach. This research uses empirical data in the form of a questionnaire with open and closed response options. This paper uses a qualitative method, phenomenography, to analyse the responses of 362 students. Findings – The findings reveal variations in conceptions of group work among students with evidence of both surface and deep approaches to learning. Research limitations/implications – The following limitations are recognised: the questionnaire may not have given students an opportunity to express their perceptions fully; the absence of demographic data did not permit consideration of cultural factors on the outcome and the analysis was able to focus only on perceptions of behaviour rather than actual behaviour. A major implication from the paper is the value of research into accounting education. The paper provides the opportunity to trial research, reflect upon and change curricula, delivery and assessment based on research findings. Originality/value – Student experiences in group work in accounting, while not entirely new, is however, an area not widely reported on.