Analysis of a questionnaire completed by initial teacher education (ITE) students at the University of Glasgow shows a clear divergence between their personal and professional ideals. The students define their own ideals predominantly in terms of situations, like being married, having children or being happy. Their professional ideals, which comprise the ideals they want to pass on to pupils and their views about the ideal teacher, are mainly defined in terms of character traits, like being kind, honest and hard working. Another outcome that was different from our expectations was that, though the ITE has a Catholic mission, only a small number of students mention religious ideals. © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.