A Career-Neutral Accounting Curriculum? the Accounting Faculty at Kansas State University Are Pleased with the One They Designed

Article excerpt

IN 1986 the Bedford Report proclaimed "the minimum objective of accounting education programs should be to prepare students to begin and develop in a wide range of professional accounting careers." Three years later, the managing partners of the then Big 8 accounting firms wrote in their "Perspectives" paper that "passing the CPA exam should not be the goal of accounting education." Both reports reflected the concerns of academics and practitioners about the bias toward public accounting at most universities. Unfortunately, given the structure of most accounting curricula, it appears the bias still exists.

In response to the profession's prompting, the accounting faculty at Kansas State University (KSU) created a curriculum designed around how students learn and that emphasizes professional skills. The new curriculum has eliminated public accounting bias yet still meets the needs of KSU students and their potential employers. After all, as the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA[R]) points out, the vast majority of accounting majors will ultimately end up in private or governmental accounting, so courses biased toward public accounting don't adequately prepare students for many career alternatives.

By focusing on the accounting system as a source of information for a variety of users at the curriculum's foundation level, KSU has tempered, if not eliminated, the financial accounting bias created by the traditional curriculum. By compelling students to identify the variety of users and how the accounting system adapts to meet their needs, the curriculum exposes students to many career alternatives.

Let's now take a quick look at how the push to move away from traditional accounting programs began and then a closer look at the accounting program at Kansas State.


Armed with $6 million from the Big 8 firms, the Accounting Education Change Commission (AECC) formed in 1989 with the ultimate goal of creating innovative accounting curricula that would better prepare students to become professional accountants. Specifically, the new curricula should produce students who were technically competent and who could write well, make effective presentations, work well in team environments, think critically, conduct meaningful applied research, and be prepared to work in a wide range of professional accounting careers--not merely do well on the CPA exam.

Ultimately, the AECC awarded 11 grants to fund innovative curriculum revisions, and it also held numerous workshops and seminars to promote innovative teaching methodologies as well as curriculum revision. In the 1990s, Deloitte conducted seminars to promote innovation in both the curriculum and classroom pedagogies. The American Accounting Association (AAA), the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and IMA also began initiatives to support the wave of change washing over accounting education.

Many positives resulted from this reform. Most business schools have recognized the importance of good teaching and the scholarship of teaching. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) has created more flexible, mission-driven criteria for schools to attain accreditation that in turn fosters academic innovation. More organizations and publications are available to meet the needs of accounting educators. And, finally, a growing number of new technologies facilitate innovations in the classroom.

Yet the bias toward public accounting still persists. With the exception of information systems, you can find most of today's course titles and descriptions in business college catalogs of the 1960s. In his session "Is It Time to Restructure Undergraduate Accounting Course Requirements?" at the 2006 Colloquium on Change in Accounting Education, Thomas Klammer reported his analysis of the Web-based content of 409 AACSB-accredited business schools (sample included schools with separate AACSB accounting accreditation). …