This paper is based upon a research study which looks at the impact of real-world engagement on student learning and motivation in a higher educational Pathways’ context. That study evolved from the desire to build students’ knowledge and awareness of the social practices within their disciplines, which is a central tenet of the Academic Literacies’ approach as espoused by Lea and Street (1998). Through linking the social practices of academia with those of the wider world, students may become more motivated to engage with disciplinary knowledge and content. Further to this, since the term ‘real-world learning’ could have a multiplicity of interpretations, the study explores student expectations of ways in which a real-world element can be applied in the higher educational context. As such, the findings have been reported as much as is possible in the authentic voices of students through a qualitative analysis of their responses. Through doing this, the study has made both a practical and theoretical contribution to the design and delivery of EAP and other Pathway courses in one particular institution. There are valuable lessons too in this for other organisations of a similar nature.