Academic journal article Global Perspectives on Accounting Education

Revisiting the Determinants of Student Performance in an Undergraduate Accountancy Degree Programme in Singapore

Academic journal article Global Perspectives on Accounting Education

Revisiting the Determinants of Student Performance in an Undergraduate Accountancy Degree Programme in Singapore

Article excerpt


Examining the variables that affect the academic performance of accounting students in undergraduate accountancy degree programmes has attracted significant research interest for almost thirty years. Much of the work has focused on programmes in the US (Bergin, 1983; Buckless et al., 1991; Clark and Sweeney, 1985; Doran et al., 1991; Krausz et al., 1999) and the UK (Bartlett et al., 1993; Gammie et al., 2003; Gracia and Jenkins, 2002, 2003) although studies have also been done in Australia (Cooper, 2004; Hartnett et al., 2004; Rohde and Kavanagh, 1996), Hong Kong (Gul and Fong, 1993), Ireland (Byrne and Flood, 2008), Malaysia (Ayob and Selamat, 2011; Tho, 1994), New Zealand (Keef and Roush, 1997) and Singapore (Koh and Koh, 1999).

The motivation underlying this whole area of research has been to identify factors associated with successful academic performance, whether in entry-level accounting modules or over a whole accountancy degree programme. Given the limited places available in university-level accountancy degree programmes, understanding the relevant variables that influence the achievement of accounting students may significantly impact university admission policies to reduce the likelihood of admitting unsuitable students.

The purpose of revisiting the determinants of academic performance in the Singapore context is twofold. First, university-level accountancy degree programmes in Singapore are now very different from the programme studied in Koh and Koh's earlier study (1999), in terms of content, delivery and assessment (as described in more detail in the section immediately following). The current study examines if determinants previously identified as significant continue to be so in the new setting. Koh and Koh (1999) investigated six independent variables (prior academic achievement, prior accounting knowledge, mathematical aptitude, gender, national service and age). The current study shows that prior academic achievement, mathematical aptitude and gender remain significantly associated with academic performance. Prior accounting knowledge was excluded from the current study as the Singapore Ministry of Education has dropped the accounting subject from the pre-university admission examinations. National service and age were not included in the current study because of the high correlation with gender. In each cohort of students, almost all male students are older than the female students because male students who are Singapore citizens are required to fulfil two to two and a half years of military national service requirements with the Singapore Ministry of Defence.

Second, the current study tests the usefulness of the admission interview in identifying applicants who achieve subsequent academic success. Several studies have highlighted the association between admission tests and students' subsequent academic performance. Zwick (2007) suggests that admission tests are more useful in predicting subsequent academic success than relying on prior grades alone. West and Gibbs (2004) suggest several ways of assessing students' potential that include interviews together with student portfolios, essays, grades and class ranks. Burton and Ramist (2001) contend that admission policies that include a combination of such measures admit better quality students with more successful subsequent academic performance. Despite the recognition of the importance of more varied admission tests, our literature review suggests a lack of empirical evidence on the association between admission interviews and subsequent academic performance in an undergraduate accountancy degree programme.

Context of the Current Study

A Different Style of University and Accountancy Degree Programme

Over the period of the previous studies, changes in the business world, the accountancy profession and the body of accounting knowledge have been accompanied by changes in the scope and style of university accounting education. …

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