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The integration of accounting education, practice and research into new teaching models and curricula is among the recommendations of the Pathways Commission Final Report currently being implemented.

The Future of Higher Education in Accounting report, released on July 31, culminated in two years of study and views from teams representing diverse viewpoints in practice and academia.

The report, titled Develop a national strategy for the next generation of accountants, is available on the commission’s website,

The Pathways Commission is a joint venture of the American Accounting Association and the AICPA. The two organizations were commissioned in 2008 by the US Treasury Advisory Committee on the Audit Profession to study a possible future structure of higher education (see “New Pathways to Accounting Excellence”, JofA, October 2010, page 56).

The report makes seven general recommendations, each with specific objectives and actions. It also identifies the obstacles to achieving these goals.

The recommendations are:

1. Build a learned profession for the future by deliberately integrating accounting research, training and practice for students, accounting practitioners and educators.

2. Develop mechanisms to meet the future demand for professors by freeing up doctoral training through flexible pedagogies in existing programs and by exploring alternative paths towards terminal degrees that align with institutional missions and training objectives and accounting research.

3. Reform accounting education so that education is respected and rewarded as an essential element in achieving the mission of each institution.

4. Developing curriculum models, engaging learning resources and mechanisms for easily sharing them, as well as enhancing faculty development opportunities to support the maintenance of a strong curriculum. .

5. Improve the capacity to attract diversified entrants with high potential to the profession.

6. Create mechanisms for collecting, analyzing and disseminating information on current and future markets for accounting professionals and accounting professors.

7. Convert thought into action by establishing an implementation process to respond to these and upcoming recommendations by creating structures and mechanisms to shift accounting change efforts from episodic events to a more continuous process and sustainable.

But what distinguishes the Pathways report the most from similar previous initiatives, organizers say, is a phase of ongoing implementation. For the next three years, the effort will be led by William F. Ezzell and Mark Higgins. Ezzell, one of the six Commissioners of Pathways, is also a former Chairman of the Board of Directors of AICPA and recently retired Associate at Deloitte LLP. Higgins has chaired one of the commission’s three “supply chain” working groups and is the dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Rhode Island.

“We will do everything we can to encourage, cajole,… and whatever we can to get people interested in both the profession and education to experience and try some of these recommendations,” Ezzell said.

Ezzell said he and the rest of the committee had already gained a lot of information about the problems and potential solutions.

“It was an extremely educational process for me, a very open process where we probed a lot of different points of view,” he said. “There will be some things in the report that people will embrace immediately and some that may be controversial.”

One of the action points in the fifth recommendation regarding attracting promising new students, which Ezzell discussed during a presentation at the AICPA Council meeting in June (see the video at 9dncpvo), is to make introductory accounting courses more interesting and relevant.

“Whether the first class is in high school or even university, we have always focused too much on accounting and debits and credits and have failed to give students a proper understanding of what accounting is. , why it is valuable, ”said Ezzell. in an interview.

Another, as part of the first recommendation, is to strengthen the role in universities of professionally qualified faculty members – those who may not have a doctorate in accounting but who bring valuable experience to the workplace. in the classroom. The report states that “cultural barriers” at universities can discourage working professionals from entering teaching.

“Too often we have found and felt that we are not making the best use of professionally qualified teachers,” Ezzell said. “These are great resources, but what is not done is to involve them at least a little in the development of the program and in the research.

Commission chairman Bruce Behn, Ergen professor of commerce and recently appointed head of the accounting and information management department at the University of Tennessee- Knoxville, said the commission’s work had been difficult but rewarding. The commission included 50 people who met – sometimes almost daily via online conference, Behn said – and corresponded to discuss the issues and receive public comment. They also held a public meeting last year (see “Pathways Commission Forges Ahead”, JofA, May 2011, page 30).

“Writing a report that everyone can be proud of is a pretty amazing experience,” he said.

Even so, the report only marks the beginning of the crucial implementation ahead, Behn said.

“With practitioners and academics sitting side by side to solve the same problems, the better we can bring these two together, it will really benefit the profession,” he said.

For more on the Pathways Commission report and other developments in accounting education, see the related articles “From Practice to the Classroom” on page 40 and “The Doctoral Program in Accounting : a situation report ”, page 46.

Paul Bonner is a
JofA senior editor. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact him at
[email protected]
or 919-402-4434.

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