First year students on the BSc Accounting have completed a new course unit designed to broaden their horizons about the role of accountancy in wider society.
Working closely with the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales), students were challenged to think differently about the role of the profession today and how it will evolve over future decades.
BSc Accounting programme director Penny Clarke says auditing and accountancy tend to either be learnt as an academic discipline or taught very technically, with little cross over between the two.
“What we set out to do was bridge this link. ICAEW has been running workshops at third year level on the future of the profession and that got us thinking as to how we could teach this throughout the whole degree.”
The resulting Philosophy for Accounting course unit aimed to get students thinking about what it means to be a professional, the role of accountants within society, and what is meant by public interest. The sessions were led by Martin Martinoff from the ICAEW and Plamena Pehlivanova from UCL Institute of Education.
Adds Penny: “We want students to explore these concepts before they go into the workplace where they are unlikely to give a second thought to these questions. This is most definitely not a careers unit, this is about employability skills, raising conceptual issues and deeper thinking. It is about demonstrating teamwork and having the ability to evaluate, be flexible, have commercial awareness, and be a global citizen.”
Martin said students reflected positively on the course, improving their critical thinking and self-reflection skills. “The most important achievement of the programme has been its impact on students’ creativity, personal development and deeper engagement with the subject matter.”
Following the success of the programme, Penny is now running the course again for first year students in the forthcoming academic year, drawing on additional specialists from within the university. In order to see the progression in the students’ thinking, those who have just completed their first year will now engage with some of the concepts as they progress into the second year.
One of the projects they will be undertaking is the design of an optimal tax system within the second year tax course unit. They will also be provided with opportunities to develop their thinking at a higher level around professional accounting practice issues in a different second year course unit.
The programme forms part of a wider engagement agenda for students. Over the past year Penny has taken students to the offices of accountancy firms KPMG, PwC and Ernst & Young in Manchester to learn more about the day-to-day work of auditors. The whole idea of the BSc Accounting programme is to facilitate interaction between students and the profession.