Exacerbating Staff Shortages and Student Dissatisfaction? the Impact of AACSB Accreditation on Faculty Recruitment in Australia
Lightbody, Margaret, Australasian Accounting Business & Finance Journal
Australian accounting schools are widely perceived to be experiencing a staffing shortage. Many accounting schools are now seeking AACSB accreditation. There has been no consideration in the accounting literature of how such accreditation might impact on the future ability of accounting schools to attract the ex-practice accountants that have traditionally comprised the majority of their faculty recruits. To examine such implications, this paper presents an interpretive case study of an Australian business school which is in the process of applying for AACSB accreditation. The paper argues that an implication of the increasingly inflexible work environment driven by AACSB accreditation may be that academia becomes a less attractive workplace for ex-practitioner faculty. This may further exacerbate existing academic staff shortages and reduce diversity and professional knowledge within accounting schools, with consequent implications for teaching, student engagement, and industry engagement. This in turn may have long term ramifications for the ability of the universities to attract students and thus earn the tuition fees on which they currently rely.
Keywords: Accounting; Universities; Faculty; AACSB; Diversity; Flexible work arrangements.
JEL Classification: M400
Australian accounting schools1 are widely perceived to be experiencing a staffing crisis, particularly in the technical areas of tax and audit (Tarrant 2006). A rapid growth in demand for accounting degrees, mainly from international students, has lead to burgeoning class sizes in most universities. At the same time, a growing demand for practicing accountants, combined with rapidly escalating salaries, is argued to have lead to a decrease in the number of potential candidates wishing to pursue an academic career (see, for example, Healy 2008; Njoku 2008; Subramaniam 2003).
In the past, an important source of 'entry level' faculty in Australia has been 'career change' practitioners. The flexibility inherent in academic work, particularly given the generous human resource policies of most Australian universities in comparison to private organisations, has made university employment attractive to a sub-group of accounting professionals who are willing to sacrifice a higher salary in return for a more flexible and intellectually stimulating work environment (Healy 2008).
While all university departments are experiencing the changing wind of managerialism in its various forms (see, for example, Davies & Thomas 2002; Neuman & Guthrie 2002; Roberts et al. 2004; Willmont 1995), many Australian accounting schools have recently faced new pressures from their Vice Chancellors or Deans to gain AACSB accreditation. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is a US-based business school accrediting body. Accreditation has been for some time an important component of the processes of public legitimisation by universities in general and accounting schools in particular (Durand & McGuire 2005). While Australian schools have long been accredited by the Australian professional accounting bodies, they are now focusing on international sources of 'quality' accreditation. AACSB claims that it provides a point of "differentiation" that "can be an important factor in identifying high-quality business schools by prospective students, faculty and employers" (Trapnell 2007, p 67). While a small US-based that AACSB accreditation has undoubtedly had significant implications for US faculty (see later discussion), there has been little 'deep' examination of how such accreditation might impact on individual faculty. However, what is apparent in the few studies that do exist is that AACSB moves schools to a more homogenised faculty, particularly in terms of faculty qualifications and performance metrics.
As AACSB is relatively new in Australia, there is no research considering the implication of AACSB accreditation for Australian faculty. …