13 Sep

Accounting Education: Where are we heading?

Back in 1994 Sir David Tweedy, Chair of the Accounting Standards Board, asks: ‘“What is the difference between an auditor and an airport luggage trolley?”. Silence ensues, then the answer comes: “The trolley has a mind of its own.”

Now, apply this to accounting education in general; undergraduate, postgraduate and professional alike. How often students are taught to think for themselves and are trusted to solve real practical problems? These are the candidates we are training and making ready for the workplace to guide and support our companies for the future; a future which no one knows what will happen five years later.

The current world we live in is moving fast beneath our feet, to the extent we are playing catch-up with tech entrepreneurs and disruptors. It is clear that standard setting boards and industry regulating bodies, are slow in their support when it comes to education and its impact on the future skills which are meant to take us to into the unknown.

One business school in central London has taken a unique approach to accounting education.

Will Holt, Dean of Pearson Business School, explains:

“The accounting industry is fast changing and we need to equip our students with the skills which make them not only problem solvers but also employable based on their applicable technological skills. We have designed our accounting courses in collaboration with FTSE 100 companies, auditing firms, the banking and technology industries.

Our students have the opportunity to go on placements during their course and work with industry leading organisations to develop their skills to complement their theoretical education.

Employers are starting to ask for key ingredients from candidates who wish to join them. Our approach to education is a good combination of professional speakers, practical experience and exam success”

Laura Marshall, Programme Leader for Accountancy, added:

“We have made our predictive analytics module an option for postgraduate students. This will prepare our graduates who wish to springboard into the arena of financial analytics through prior use of such technologies at our business school and their placements.

Pearson Business School has many entrepreneurs and professional speakers, complementing the delivery of our education style, preparing and recruiting students from our business school based very much on these education qualities we deliver.”

We only need to look at the recruitment criteria employers are asking for and understand how academic inflation is increasing the entry requirements for a given role which could be suitable for a bachelor degree ten years ago, but now requires a master graduate. It is clear that education plays a large role in the quality of business and is a means to provide the very foundation which a career can be built upon. Many other education providers are comfortable treating students as information receivers; for how long, time will tell.

We can now see Sir Tweedy’s vision in the light of how we can prepare future accountants; not to go off in “uncontrolled directions”, but train them to carry the necessary skills
to contribute to better business and in the direction of choice.

Person Business School was founded by Pearson Plc, a the multinational publishing and education company founded in 1840 and currently listed on the FTSE 100 index.

30 Mar

University of Illinois Offer Completely Online iMBA Accountancy Program

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will be the first of the top 5 ranked accountancy programs to offer a completely online MS in Accountancy, the iMSA. Delivered in partnership with the online learning platform Coursera, the iMSA will be heavily hands-on and practice-oriented. In a rapidly changing field, the degree will prepare and enable students everywhere to earn a premier master’s degree from an accounting powerhouse. 

W. Brooke Elliott, EY Distinguished Professor and Accountancy Head Designate in the College of Business said:

We’re looking to bring more talent into the field by improving accessibility to top-notch quality education and star faculty.
We’re lowering barriers to entry for talented people to become leaders in the accounting profession

Elliott added that the most sought-after candidate of companies hiring MSA graduates possesses three key attributes: a solid understanding of accounting fundamentals, a competency in data analytics, and the ability to communicate what the numbers mean.

 “We’re developing people who deliver that trifecta of competencies,” said Elliott.

The launch of the iMSA comes at a time when job growth in the accounting field is strong, and there is demand for a new generation of accounting professionals who are able to leverage new technologies to access and analyse the mass amount of data that is now being produced.

Nikhil Sinha, Chief Business Officer at Coursera commented:

The US business landscape continues to transform, and companies need highly skilled accounting professionals who have the capacity to adapt and the financial competencies to stay on top.
The iMSA, delivered entirely online, will put an accounting career from an elite academic program within the reach of anyone, anywhere.

The iMSA is uniquely structured as a stackable degree in order to allow students to try out the curriculum with the iMSA’s open enrolment courses on Coursera. Learners can decide whether a few courses are all they need or go on to apply to the iMSA. If admitted, the progress they have made in open courses can be applied toward the degree. 

Sinha added:

Traditionally, degrees are an all-or-nothing endeavour. We are pioneering a new model of credentialing with Illinois that enables learners to gain valuable certificates along the way toward earning a degree.

The open enrolment component of iMSA courses can be accessed and completed on a learner’s own schedule and consists of on-demand videos, reading material, quizzes to test knowledge, and forums where learners can interact with their peers globally. A high-engagement, for-credit component of iMSA courses enables students to learn and practice their skills in live sessions, where they work with faculty, practitioners from top accounting firms, and fellow students. Faculty also meet with degree students in office hours, and students get access to community events like guest lectures and an eminent speaker series. 

Elliot continued:

We are leveraging our close ties to the accounting profession to deliver an innovative online learning experience.
We are excited to offer our iMSA students the opportunity to hear from and engage with leaders in the field—many of whom are our own alumni. 

The iMSA will build expertise in the fundamentals of accounting: financial reporting, audit and control, and US federal taxation. But beyond that it will develop students’ skills in communication and data visualisation, as the ability to explain what the numbers mean to non-experts becomes increasingly important in a world of increasingly complex—and valuable—data. 

The flexible program format allows students to balance academic life with other obligations. The five core and three elective courses can be completed in as few as four semesters (18 months) or as many as eight semesters (36 months). The program, at an affordable cost, is designed both for professionals already working in accounting looking to refresh their skills and for those who want to make a career change into the accounting field.

The iMSA is the University of Illinois’ third master’s degree offered with Coursera. Last year, the University launched the iMBA from the College of Business and the Master’s of Computer Science in Data Science. Both programs are growing rapidly, with students enrolled from all over the world. 

The first class for the iMSA will start in August and applications will open in May.