Great Divide: Academia and Practice
2007 - When the Renaissance mathematician Luca Pacioli developed
the method now known as the double-entry system, he could
never have envisioned the divergent needs that would evolve
for those who practice accounting and those who teach its
methods and principles. During my discussions with practitioners,
one common theme comes through: their frustration with the
inadequate level of skills and preparation of accounting graduates.
Professors, on the other hand, have their own issues to tackle:
Teaching a rigorous curriculum to students (many of whom
are unprepared for college-level work);
Providing academic and career guidance to students;
Reviewing and updating curricula to address changes in
professional standards, state board requirements, the
CPA exam, and the business environment;
Meeting the administrative demands of accrediting organizations.
the list goes on.
such daily challenges, however, long-term success in academia
requires that professors engage in a number of different
pursuits that pull them away from the issues with which
practitioners are most concerned. Faculty members are expected
to demonstrate teaching effectiveness, pursue scholarly
research and publish in their field of expertise, and serve
on college or university committees as the basis—at
least in part—for reappointment, tenure, and promotion
ongoing debate in higher education involves whether a PhD
should be required for college teaching, or if an MBA with
a CPA license is acceptable, or even preferable. One might
argue that those with the best teaching effectiveness should
be in front of the classroom. But how do we identify the
best teachers? Many universities require that a professorial
candidate have a PhD to qualify for a full-time, tenure-track
position. The Association for the Advancement of Collegiate
Schools of Business (AACSB), currently the only accounting-program
accrediting organization, requires that a minimum of 50%
of faculty members be academically qualified (AQ), which
means that they must have a PhD. However, many PhDs lack
the practical work experience to provide real-life war stories.
Although some colleges will accept an MBA with a CPA license
as the equivalent to a “terminal degree,” the
AACSB’s criteria severely limit this option. At the
same time, there is a looming shortage of accounting PhDs.
The principle of supply-and-demand will further exacerbate
the cost of higher education and will force the profession,
in conjunction with the academic community, to make some
and Scholarly Writing
adage “publish or perish” originates from the
second of the three primary requirements for reappointment,
tenure, and promotion. For faculty members at research institutions,
this may be the most important. Although the peer-review
process is essential to any scholarly endeavor, some colleges
and universities limit consideration of publication in peer-reviewed
journals, for employment decisions, to “scholarly”
journals, such as those published by the American Accounting
Association (AAA). As a result, academic researchers’
interests diverge further from practitioners’ concerns.
of the biggest challenges The CPA Journal faces
is to maintain a balance between providing useful information
for CPAs in practice and addressing the conceptual analysis
of emerging issues for educators. Because accounting is
an applied discipline, its primary value lies in the application
of the knowledge gained from the study of theoretical concepts.
In other words, accounting practice should be an integral
driver for the discipline. As accounting researchers grapple
with how to make their research relevant to practitioners,
the profession must find a way to enhance the communication
between these constituencies.
academia, there is always another committee slot to be filled,
followed by what seems like never-ending meetings—search
committees, curriculum committees, governance committees.
This leaves precious little time for professors to become
actively involved on the committees of professional organizations—the
one sure way to keep abreast of emerging issues in our profession
and also to help guide its direction.
to Bridge the Gap
the NYSSCPA’s Quality Enhancement Policy Committee
(QEPC) took up the issue of accounting education, and seeks
input from practitioners and academics concerning how to
improve workplace success for new accountants. With the
implementation of the 150 credit-hour requirement looming
in New York, Society members from “both sides of the
aisle” have an invaluable opportunity to get involved
and help shape the future of our profession. Another way
practitioners can participate in this effort is to contact
their local college or university and offer to serve as
a guest speaker in one of their classes. At last year’s
Annual AAA Conference, historically almost exclusively attended
by accounting educators, I was encouraged to see a significant
number of representatives from many large accounting firms,
as well as from the PCAOB, the SEC, FASB, the AICPA, and
state CPA societies. Let’s hope this is the start
of a trend.
always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.
Kranacher, MBA, CPA, CFE