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November 30, 2020: Richard Cartwright, Senior Lecturer at the University of Southampton, explains why the colossal challenges facing businesses today give a new focus to the professional and academic study of accounting.

I describe myself as an accidental accountant having fallen into the profession after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in economics in 2006. I’ll be frank, I even actively avoided the optional modules in accounting during my degree because I thought they would be boring!

Fast forward 14 years and things couldn’t be more different, I’m a complete convert! A graduate of KPMG, I am now a lecturer specializing in financial accounting and auditing and a very active member of the ICAEW.

Job prospects, average incomes, and the wider opportunities associated with studying accounting and finance are competitive. However, for a long time I struggled with how to make subject matter and in particular the study of subject matter in college, a compelling option for students who at 18 have more choices than ever before.

The definitions of accounting are generally very dry and, in my opinion, often do not provide a rich illustration of the purpose of accounting. Accountants are at the forefront of helping prepare for and respond to what I believe are four big challenges businesses face today:

  • Respond to COVID-19
  • Managing the impact of Brexit
  • Seize the opportunities and challenges associated with the 4th industrial revolution
  • Help achieve the United Nations global goals for sustainable development.

In recent years, companies have received bad press when it comes to their impact on the environment. However, I am a strong believer in the ability of business (as an organizing principle) to solve problems and I include the achievement of the United Nations global goals for sustainable development.

This is why I am so happy to see ICAEW embracing these challenges as part of its strategy and so much material on the topics to members and the general public on these issues.

I believe that these challenges also give a new focus to the professional and academic study of accounting. He also helped communicate the importance and relevance of accounting to accounting and non-accounting students. I can attest to this personally by incorporating these topics into our Introductory Financial Accounting module at Southampton Business School.

For as long as I can remember, business awareness has been a key skill for the employability of graduates. Soon I think this will be expanded to include awareness of sustainability and the impact of a company’s activity on the environment.

It is therefore important that providers of professional and academic qualifications “take the floor” as well as “speak the floor”, fully integrating these extremely important topics into what is already a very busy curriculum.

Universities are likely to find it easier to find a space or opportunity to discuss these issues in their courses and, by the nature of their institutions, have access to a wide range of expertise beyond their own school and faculty. . However, while they may have advantages in terms of freedom and theoretical expertise, they are potentially at a disadvantage in terms of practical business experience.

Conversely, where providers of professional qualifications may be more limited in terms of the program (due to its heavy regulation) and potentially in terms of in-house expertise, they usually have a closer connection to the profession and industry and therefore produce generally more commercially relevant files. studies in which students can participate.

This is an important time for academics, professional bodies and businesses to work together to develop a compelling range of resources, case studies and live presentations under a Creative Commons license to inspire, inform and (yes ) evaluate students so that sustainability becomes a central element. accounting programs.

Prince Charles challenged accountants to “save the world”. To do this, we need members of the profession and especially those entering it to be sensitized, educated and empowered to help businesses be an agent of good and help change the world for the better.

The time is now, history has its eyes on us.

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