Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Do Academic Traditions Undermine Teaching?

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Do Academic Traditions Undermine Teaching?

Article excerpt

Is the academic community meeting the needs of the accounting profession? Will colleges and universities be ready to educate twenty-first century CPAs? Public practitioners may be alarmed at what they see when they look into the institutions that prepare future CPAs. Academics, however, are likely to believe colleges are doing a good job. Here a public practitioner and an accounting professor debate how well professors are preparing students for jobs in public or private practice.


A. MARVIN STRAIT, CPA, is chairman of the board of directors of Strait. Kushinsky and Company, P.C., a CPA firm with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. He has held many leadership positions in the CPA profession, including chairman of the American Institute of CPAs board of directors. Strait is a member of the Accounting Education Change Commission and a member of the AICPA academic and career development executive committee. He is this year's recipient of the CPA Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Service to the Profession, the highest award the AICPA bestows.

My respect for the talent, ability and expertise of professionals in academia has been confirmed in every way. Higher education is composed of dedicated and committed professionals with a most unique creativity and drive. It is clear this fantastic resource of talent and skill is needed and has to be managed wisely and efficiently in order to meet the dramatic challenges and demands that our fast-changing world has placed upon higher education.

Sadly, it is apparent the present system is not ready for the future, nor meeting the needs of our society. Accounting education is in trouble. As the seminal study Future Accounting Education: Preparing for the Expanding Profession, the report of the blue ribbon committee of the American Accounting Association (the Bedford committee), described it: "Future accountants are not receiving the preparation they need to meet the increased demands of the expansive, more complex profession that is emerging." This article does not blame higher education for all the problems encountered by the profession in attracting the "brightest and the best." Most assuredly, compensation, career opportunities, characteristics of the work environment and public perceptions of accountants are also major factors in student career decisions.

An early experience on the Accounting Education Change Commission exemplifies the "shock treatment" I received. In a discussion about faculty incentives and rewards for curriculum development, course design and teaching, the point was made that faculty members at many institutions would be committing academic suicide to devote substantial time and effort to a major curriculum project. I thought such comments to be ludicrous. With the heavy demand and the short supply of such curriculums, I did not understand how there could possibly be a disincentive to meeting an important and sought-after need.

I gradually learned the truth: Professors undertaking major curriculum projects at most major universities do so at peril to their careers. In fact, many educators doubt their administrators even would recognize such efforts for tenure and promotion purposes. Even if they did, certainly a stigma would be attached to the faculty member. I have found that no one in higher education is at all surprised at this.

This, in my judgment, is a fundamental incongruity between what the public understands about higher education and what actually occurs. The public believes the primary mission is to educate students. Most assuredly, a significant portion of institutions' funding comes from tuition, which, of course, is for education. The taxpayers, at state schools, also fund teaching, yet the faculty reward system clearly demonstrates that teaching is not the priority in many institutions.

If education of new generations were higher education's top priority, colleges and universities would offer incentives, prestige and position to encourage teaching and promote curriculum development. …

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