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ICAA chief criticises accounting education

University level accounting education is in a “sorry state” in Australia, according to Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA) chief executive Graham Meyer.

The first problem is ageing accounting academics.

“There are suggestions that within 15 years there won’t be any more accounting academics left,” Meyer said.

“There is a paucity of students doing a PhD in accountancy and without PhD students you don’t get new lecturers.”

Meyer said part of the problem lies with the fact that unless you have a PhD, you can’t progress through university promotional systems.

The institute is discussing with universities whether credit could be given to people will relevant business and commercial skills, so they are not limited to becoming consultants for universities, but can join the academic system.


Insufficient English skills

The second problem for accountancy education relates to the fact that 60 percent of students at Australian universities are foreign full fee paying students, Meyer said.

Foreign students are attractive to universities because they must pay fees upfront and pay higher rates, while Australian nationals can defer payment.

“Because [foreign students’] English is not necessarily of a high standard, it tends to slow down the teaching and slow down the ability to get complex ideas across, which becomes frustrating for those that do have English as a first language,” Meyer said.

“[Another implication is] universities are using accounting skills as a pot of gold. There is a greater and greater push to get more of these foreign students and the revenue from that does not to go back into accounting education, but is used in other departments, because for accounting you just need a tin shed and a white board, you don’t need a lot of equipment.”

Meyer said there are no easy solutions to the higher education dilemmas, so the ICAA recruited James Guthrie towards the end of last year to fill a new position, head of academic relations.

Guthrie is honorary professor at the University of Sydney, a fellow of the ICAA and has more than 35 years of experience in accounting education.

As head of academic relations, he will help the institute form its policy position and proposals.

“It is all very well to criticise and say ‘here is the problem’, but you have also got to be there to provide solutions,” Meyer said. “Through James Guthrie, we are starting to work with universities and the government on how we can resolve these problems.”


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