Academic journal article Issues in Accounting Education

An Academic Curriculum Proposal

Academic journal article Issues in Accounting Education

An Academic Curriculum Proposal

Article excerpt


The first issue to confront in any curriculum design exercise is what benefits will accrue to students and faculty (both current and future generations thereof) who participate in the curriculum. The underlying premise in the following proposed design is that accounting is a scholarly academic discipline. As such, the goal for participants is to engage in fruitful, scholarly dialogue, not only with colleagues in Accounting, but also throughout the Business School and, more broadly (and perhaps most important), with scholars in many disciplines across the University.

While the stated goal does not explicitly mention professional or vocational preparation, we do not intend to ignore professional preparation. Rather, we admit the plausible possibility that the best training for a profession consists of a significant number of other activities besides learning how the job is done in the real world. An easy analogy is that athletes in a particular sport seem well served to engage in a variety of sport-independent activities such as conditioning for strength, endurance, balance, etc. In terms of the curriculum, the emphasis, of course, is on exploiting the comparative advantage of the University in society relative to on the job training. Besides being beneficial to the individual, the existence of a University-based field of study nurtures the discipline itself, increasing the likelihood the profession will be dynamic and vigorous over time. (As a tangential comment, the curriculum is designed so that it might serve as a reasonable general education for someone who may not pu rsue accounting, or even business, as a vocation.)

Armed with this objective, we attempt to identify curriculum topics with two attributes: (1) they possess scholarly rigor, and (2) they are such that the comparative advantage of accounting scholars can be exploited. Two general topics that appear to meet these criteria are double-entry mechanics and information. While double entry is specific to accounting, it has many properties in common with networks and circuitry, topics routinely encountered in engineering, chemistry, and elsewhere across the University. Information, of course, is pervasive in economics and other social sciences as well as in computer science, physics, etc. Accounting would seem to have a rich potential for investigating these academic topics and combining them in a unique and productive manner.

It is a difficult challenge to maintain sight of accounting-specific topics while studying accounting in the rich and complex socio-economic context in which it occurs. In an attempt to meet the challenge, the focus of the curriculum is to: (1) identify characteristics that make accounting information unique and (2) understand how accounting is done, and study how that may be a consequence of how accounting is used. As examples of the first property, accounting data is aggregated--a small number of accounts summarize the information contained in a large number of transactions. It is prepared in accordance with double-entry rules. It is audited. It is late (historical). It is tracked over multiple periods. It gives the preparer of accounting reports a curious amount of discretion (through the choice of accruals). The curriculum also stresses that accounting information often works best when used in conjunction with other information.

As for the second property, broadly stated, the curriculum emphasizes how accounting activities, practices, and institutions arise (and evolve) as a consequence of endogenous demands by various users of information (e.g., managers in the firm, investors in the capital markets, regulators, etc.).

Just as "using" accounting in isolation can be problematic, "studying" accounting in isolation can be detrimental. In this regard, the curriculum highlights connections between accounting and other venerable disciplines. For example, cost functions are discussed in both microeconomics and accounting texts, but with little overlap. …

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