This article contributes to contemporary debates about the significance of emotions within Higher Education. Using a psychoanalytic lens we analyse the ways in which experiences of anxiety and tension are essential for learning. The anxiety associated with learning can stimulate meaningful and reflexive outcomes but ‘learning inaction’ [Vince, R. 2014. ‘What Do HRD Scholars and Practitioners Need to Know About Power, Emotion, and HRD?’ Human Resource Development Quarterly 25: 409–420] is also possible. In adopting a psychoanalytical lens we assert the agency of both learners and teachers in scholarly relationships and we draw attention to the emotions of educators as well as students. This has important implications for teacher education and academic formation activities.