An empirical study was conducted to gain an understanding of the motivations of undergraduate students in attending lectures. Students were highly heterogeneous regarding their reported lecture attendance motivations, with two segments representing prototypical extremes. The student group labelled ‘idealists’ in this study reported genuinely enjoying lectures, were mature aged students with work experience and more frequently in the arts subjects surveyed. Students labelled ‘pragmatics’ in this study were most highly represented in the commerce subjects surveyed, were among the younger students, reported attending lectures to get the information they need to succeed in the subject and reported the lowest lecture attendance while achieving the highest grade point average of the students in the study. Generally, as opposed to the findings of previous studies into reasons for lecture attendance in the 1970s, a shift towards pragmatism among students seems to have occurred and now defines the reality of the tertiary education environment.