Magazine article Journal of Banking and Financial Services

Academic or Professional: Which Masters Program Provides the Most Benefit to Finance Professionals? the Changing Scope of Business Activities Undertaken by Finance and Accountancy Graduates Has Also Been Reflected in Their Required Competencies, Which Are Being Continually Reassessed

Magazine article Journal of Banking and Financial Services

Academic or Professional: Which Masters Program Provides the Most Benefit to Finance Professionals? the Changing Scope of Business Activities Undertaken by Finance and Accountancy Graduates Has Also Been Reflected in Their Required Competencies, Which Are Being Continually Reassessed

Article excerpt

Accountancy as a profession developed from the medieval commercial practice, as did law and medicine.

Over the past 150 years the content and structure of accountancy has evolved with the development of subdisciplines, in particular: financial accounting, management accounting and finance. The ultimate purpose of all of these is to improve governance.

Without good governance, capital provided by investors may be mismanaged and the opportunity for economic growth lost. The dictum: 'you manage what you measure', highlights the economic importance of sound professional principles and competent professional practice.

Well-educated and well-informed professionals are also well positioned to make a positive contribution to economic growth. Historically, there has been no unanimity, however, on what is generally accepted as 'best practice' in business.

The need for best-practice rules

Recent work has concentrated on creating a conceptual framework, particularly for accounting, through a coalition of national accounting professions: the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). Developing rules of best practice is hampered by an increased pace of change in the business world involving: shorter product cycles and competitive advantages; increased uncertainty and the explicit recognition of risk; increased regulatory activity; increased complexity of business transactions; and changes in financial reporting and relationships with financial markets and intermediaries.

With greater investment capital flows worldwide and the increasing integration of Australian and New Zealand commerce, it is timely for tertiary institutions to develop programs which offer an advanced understanding of contemporary issues in finance and accounting, beyond purely domestic issues. For example, identification of differences between New Zealand and Australia and among our major trading partners is becoming increasingly important with the increased inflow of both financial and human capital to both countries.

Post-graduate models

There is no one body of knowledge considered mandatory for post-graduate study in professional accountancy or finance practice. Leaders exhibit advanced expertise across a number of disciplines in business: financial reporting; management accounting; finance and selected aspects of business law.

Study at post-graduate level is intended to develop a deeper understanding and application of the principles established at undergraduate level. In part, this requires graduates to challenge received wisdom. A professional masters degree does not require postgraduate mastery of a unique subject area. Rather, the graduate's ability is enhanced by improved expertise in one or a select number of relevant subject areas.

At post-graduate level, a survey of Australasian tertiary institutions has identified four different types of masters education programs:

* 'traditional' masters: consisting of an extension of undergraduate papers plus a dissertation or thesis;

* 'executive' masters: often included in an executive MBA as one of a package of functional skills;

* 'bridging' masters: which takes candidates holding non-business bachelors degrees and offers a bridging course in business subjects to enable students to apply for entry to professional examination programs for membership of professional bodies; and

* 'post-experience' masters: which combines a mixture of traditional, research-based, masters courses together with current, internationally relevant case studies. …

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