The literature on interprofessional education (IPE) in allied health has historically been atheoretical and dominated by interventionist approaches using survey-based methods. Little is known about the social and contextual factors underpinning university-based interprofessional socialisation across allied health degrees. Using Holland et al.’s theory of ‘identities as practice’ and in-depth interview data from 19 students, we analyse first year Australian allied health students’ experiences of university-based IPE. Doing so unlocks a reimagination of IPE as both a top-down and bottom-up process of ongoing professional self-discovery mediated by university contexts and health curricula. This contradicts the preliminary sociological theorisation that has been employed in understanding IPE thus far, depicting professional socialisation as inculcation. Furthermore, findings highlight the importance of student and context characteristics beyond profession to understanding variations in allied health students’ experiences of IPE. These characteristics include friendships, age, distance from campus and curriculum design. Thus, this article demonstrates the merits of shifting the gaze within studies of IPE to incorporate interactionist conceptualisations of the overt and ‘hidden curricula’. It demonstrates the benefits of qualitative analysis to advancing the social and health care change agendas underpinning IPE.