The aims of teaching laboratories is an important and ever-evolving topic of discussion amongst teaching staff at teaching institutions. It is often assumed that both teaching staff and students are implicitly aware of these aims, although this is rarely tested or measured. This assumption can lead to mismatched beliefs between students and teaching staff and, if not corrected for, could lead to negative learning gains for students and become a source of frustration for teaching staff. In order to measure and identify this gap in a manner that could be readily generalised to other institutions, a single open question-'What do you think the aims of doing a practical chemistry course are?'-was distributed to students and teaching staff at two Australian universities and one UK university. Qualitative analysis of the responses revealed that students and teaching staff held relatively narrow views of teaching laboratories, particularly focusing on aims more in line with expository experiences (e.g. development of practical skills or enhances understanding of theory). Whilst some differences were noted between students at the three institutions, the large amount of similarities in their responses indicated a fairly common perception of laboratory aims. Of the three groups, academics actually held the narrowest view of teaching laboratories, typically neglecting the preparation of students for the workforce or the simple increase in laboratory experience the students could gain. This study highlights gaps between the perceptions of students and teaching staff with regards to laboratory aims alongside revealing that all three groups held relatively simplified views of teaching laboratories.