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September 14, 2008

Educators ill-prepared for IFRS adoption but help aplenty

US universities are not prepared to introduce IFRS into their 2008-2009 curricula although accounting firms are taking steps to help academia get up to speed.

In a recent survey of US accounting faculties, only 22 percent of the 535 professors surveyed said they can incorporate IFRS into curricula this year in any significant way. Sixty-two percent said they have not taken any meaningful action.

Manny Fernandez, KPMG’s national managing partner of university relations and recruiting, said most educators will not be ready to start properly teaching IFRS until 2011.

“Only very few educators and administrators, those who fund and provide resources for education purposes, would be able to integrate IFRS substantially into the 2009 curriculum,” he said.

“Most curriculums are developed and locked in over the summer period for that following spring season. I think it will be a little bit more integrated, probably more on a compare and contrast basis for 2010. 2011 is when you will see a more robust IFRS curriculm being built into the system.

Manny said that 2009 and 2010 graduates will have some limited exposure to IFRS, but it will really be up to industry and public accounting firms to get them up to speed.

The research was conducted by KPMG US and the American Accounting Association during July and August. It found that the first class of graduating seniors likely to have a substantial amount of IFRS education will be the class of 2011.

Insufficient understanding

Another major issue hindering curricula advancement is that university administrations do not truly understand and appreciate the significant change needed to incorporate IFRS into a curriculum.

In 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission will make a concrete decision on whether it will adopt IFRS and on which dates. Fernandez believes it is at this point that IFRS text books will be produced and more comprehensive curriculums developed. Universities will also need to train faculties on the global standards. Fernandez says the IFRS education drive is no small feat and will require a similar effort to the effort made when Sarbanes-Oxley Section 404 was introduced.

“Part of the challenge for professors is to make sure their upperclassmen have some knowledge of IFRS before they leave campus. Therefore, they are likely in the early phases to focus in the areas of intermediate and advanced accounting,” American Accounting Association Professional Advisory Board vice president Philip Reckers suggested.

Profession steps in

On the part of the profession, the Big Four have been proactive in lending expertise and assistance to educators and clients. KPMG US has held a series of webcasts for university students and educators.

Earlier this year, the firm also established the IFRS Institute to raise awareness and address the information needs of companies, investors, academics and others who may be affected by the transition to IFRS.

In May, Deloitte established the IFRS University Consortium, which contributes resources to Ohio State and Virginia Tech universities to assist the schools in developing IFRS curricula. This includes course materials, such as classroom guides, case studies and Deloitte professionals as lecturers.

A complete IFRS course, which includes lectures from Deloitte leaders and case studies has also been developed.

In July, PricewaterhouseCoopers US released a full suite of educational tools and programmes designed to help US accounting students learn the fundamentals of IFRS. The IFRS Ready programme allows students to watch videos about IFRS. Students can use interactive IFRS financial statements, which explain the differences between IFRS and US GAAP treatments, and follow a fictional PwC staff member on his first IFRS engagement. The programme also provides tools and guides for professors.

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