The Development of Accounting Education July 21, 2009 Page

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The Development of Accounting Education

July 21, 2009 Page


As part of the full Committee’s document, the Human Capital Subcommittee of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Advisory Committee on the Auditing Profession issued a report in the fall of 2008 which included a number of recommendations concerning possible future directions for the education of accountants and auditors. The Committee recommended that the American Institute of CPAs and the American Accounting Association jointly form a body to provide a timely study of the possible future of the higher education structure for the accounting profession. (VI:26)
This project is a direct consequence of that recommendation, and is provided to assist in the deliberations which will enable such a body to act effectively and be informed as to important literature relevant to the topics which would be of importance to the study.  The particular language supporting the recommendation states in full: 
The Committee heard testimony regarding the feasibility of establishing a free-standing, post-graduate professional educational structure. Currently, there is no post-graduate institutional arrangement dedicated to accounting and auditing. Graduate programs in accounting are generally housed within business schools and linked with undergraduate accounting programs. The history of the development of U.S. educational programs and preparation for accounting careers reveals a pattern of evolution of increasing formal higher education, with accreditation standards following and reinforcing this evolution, and with market needs providing the impetus and context. Today, accrediting agencies have recognized over 150 accounting programs as the result of these programs’ improving accounting education as envisioned by prior studies and reports.

        In a November 2006 Vision Statement, the chief executive officers of the principal international auditing networks noted the challenges in educating future auditing professionals, including the sheer quantity and complexity of accounting and auditing standards, rapid technological advancements, and the need for specialized industry knowledge. This development in the market leads to a clear need to anticipate and enhance the human capital elements of the auditing profession. As such, this vision statement provides the impetus to commission a group to study and propose a long-term institutional arrangement for accounting and auditing education.

        As in the past, in the face of challenges of the changing environment for the profession, the Committee believes that the educational system should thoughtfully consider the feasibility of a visionary educational model. Therefore, the Committee recommends that the AICPA and the AAA jointly form a body to provide a timely study of the possible future of the higher education structure for the accounting profession. This commission may include representation from higher education, practitioners from the wide spectrum of the accounting and auditing profession, regulators, preparers, users of the profession’s services, and others. The commission would consider the potential role of a postgraduate professional school model to enhance the quality and sustainability of a vibrant accounting and auditing profession. The commission should consider developments in accounting standards and their application, auditing needs, regulatory framework, globalization, the international pool of candidates, and technology. Finally, a blueprint for this sort of enhanced professional educational structure would also require the consideration of long-term market circumstances, academic governance, operations, programs, funding and resources, the role of accreditation, and experiential learning processes.
The following document identifies key sources of guidance, regarding professional schools of accountancy found in the professional literature since the mid-1950s, provides highlights of the material covered by each reference (including major recommendations and suggestions, if applicable), and gives sufficient bibliographic detail for those who are interested to obtain the reference for further reading. The work product is not intended to guide or direct discussions, but to summarize the background material so that all parties to the discussions can work from a common body of references. Productive discussion will be facilitated if all participants have access to the historical context of where we are in accounting education and how we got here.
The publication of Horizons for a Profession, by Robert H. Roy and James H. MacNeill in 1967, is used as the starting point for the discussion. A summary of Horizons is included as the first section in this document. Other relevant major publications summarized in this document include the Perry report (1956), the Beamer report (1969), the Bedford report (1986), and the activities and recommendations of the Accounting Education Change Committee (1990). Following those summaries, selected additional comments are presented (in chronological order) to provide additional background and context for the debate concerning professional accounting education.
This document is intended to provide a basis for discussion, and to assist participants in understanding the historical context of significant developments in accounting education over approximately the last half-century. Sidney Davidson, in a 1977 presentation at the Arthur Young Professors’ Roundtable entitled “Roy and MacNeill Plus 10”, categorized the Horizons recommendations as Conceptual, Practical, Professional School, Humanities, and Mathematics. The basic Davidson framework is used to structure the summaries of the observations and comments in the other articles and publications reviewed for this project, and is the inspiration for the subtitles used in the summaries presented below.
While a diligent search was made for relevant publications, there can be no guarantee that all such publications were identified or that the summary comments presented herein reflect all the information necessary to capture all the relevant insights from the various authors. A full bibliography is also included to assist readers who would like to appreciate the references in their entirety.

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