The Process and the Practitioner’s Role
2007 - The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
accredits both schools of business and accounting programs. An
accounting program cannot be separately accredited unless the
business school of which it is a unit is also AACSB-accredited.
Business schools, however, can be accredited without having their
accounting programs separately accredited. There are 549 AACSB-accredited
business schools (94 outside of the United States) and 167 AACSB-accredited
accounting programs (four outside of the United States). Most
U.S. accounting firms probably do most of their entry-level hiring
at AACSB-accredited business schools and many recruit a significant
number from AACSB-accredited accounting programs.
practitioners involved in on-campus recruiting, those who make
decisions about hiring or training, and those who serve on accounting
program or business school advisory boards should familiarize
themselves with the basic content of the standards and the issues
faced by accounting programs in meeting the AACSB-accreditation
standards. Information about the accreditation process, a listing
of accredited accounting programs and business schools, and the
standards themselves are available at www.aacsb.edu/accreditation.
currently 21 business standards and 15 accounting standards. An
accounting program must meet some of the business standards as
a member of the business school and meet other standards as a
separate academic unit. There are six accounting standards for
which there are no counterparts in the business standards. For
each standard the AACSB provides a basis for judgment, and guidance
for documentation. The AACSB also provides interpretative material
for most standards. As with any regulation, the devil is in the
details. Applying the standards requires judgment.
accreditation process requires the institution to apply for accreditation,
provide a self-evaluation report that includes information showing
compliance with the standards, and a campus visit by a peer review
team. A team usually includes three business school and three
accounting program members. Team members typically include deans,
department chairs or senior faculty, and a practitioner.
initial accreditation, a business school or accounting program
goes on a maintenance schedule. Each accredited program must provide
annual reports of data and strategic management activities and
go through a fifth-year campus visit by another peer review team.
The emphasis is on continuous improvement.
for the accreditation of an accounting program cover three broad
areas: strategic management, accounting participants (students
and faculty), and assurance of learning. Below is an overview
of the more significant standards in each area, and suggestions
about the role practitioners can play in assisting accounting
programs with meeting the standards and continuously improving
the quality of accounting education. Because intellectual contributions
are addressed by standards in more than one of these areas, a
separate section covers intellectual contributions.
are mission-driven and emphasize continuous improvement. The underlying
philosophy is that “one size does not fit all.”
program must have a published mission statement that guides decisions
and the use of resources. The mission must specify the student
population served and be based on the role that the accounting
discipline and profession play in society. Stakeholders, including
administrators, employers, faculty, and students, must be involved
in the development and ongoing review of the program’s mission.
The mission must be recognized, supported, and congruent with
the missions of the business school and the university. Practitioners
should be active in the development of the program’s mission
statement. Generally, they will be asked for input into the process.
mission is the result of a compromise—a balancing of the
views of stakeholders. Accounting programs differ from other disciplines
within a business school in that accounting is a profession. This
is why six AACSB accounting standards have no comparable business
standards. At the same time, an accounting program is part of
the business school and the university’s academic community.
This is why the business standards have requirements with seemingly
little relevance to accounting programs.
standard that has no counterpart in the business standards provides
that the accounting program’s mission should be responsive
to the needs of those who employ its students. The curriculum
should cover topics of technical knowledge and skills, which employers
consider relevant and important. Processes should be in place
to adjust the curriculum as the environment and licensure requirements
change. This provides an opportunity for practitioners to affect
the design of the curriculum.
One of the
more difficult parts of the mission statement for many practitioners
to understand or fully accept is the need for intellectual contributions
by faculty members that advance the knowledge and practice of
accounting through discipline-based (basic) research, contributions
to practice (applied) research, and pedagogical research. How
the accounting program’s mission statement addresses intellectual
contributions affects how the faculty spends its time as well
as how other resources are allocated. It is important to understand
that this part of the mission is driven by the academic community
across campus and by the business school at least as much as it
is driven by accounting faculty.
program must have strategies to provide resources to achieve its
mission and continuously improve the quality of education. Practitioners
understand the need for financial strategies, including a plan
for obtaining and allocating resources. After all, accounting
firms are probably already contributing to the cause. But this
is more complex than it appears.
At most institutions,
most resources come not from donations but from internal allocations
of university-wide resources. Provosts, business school deans,
and others in the academic community do not always understand
the market for accounting faculty. Some think a “vocational”
subject like accounting should be taught in a large auditorium—if
it should be taught at a university at all. They don’t understand
that accounting is more about analysis, critical thinking, interpersonal
communication, and personal interaction than about rules and recordkeeping.
Practitioners, particularly alums, with contacts within the university
administration need to help educate those making decisions about
the allocation of resources.
faculty nor practitioners fully understand how donations should
be spent in order for the program to achieve its mission. Many
faculty members think in terms of equipment, travel, and research
needs. They trust that administrators will keep the program’s
mission and the bigger picture in mind when allocating resources.
Many practitioners think in terms of how to get the most out of
the recruiting budget, rather than where money should be spent
to ensure high-quality programs in the long term.
Participants: Students and Faculty
standards in this area must be satisfied by the business school
as a whole as well as by the accounting program. These business
standards cover policies and processes for student admission,
responsibility, retention, and support. They also cover policies
and processes related to faculty development, qualifications,
responsibilities, sufficiency, and support.
are relatively straightforward. An accounting program must demonstrate,
given the market or markets it serves as stated in its mission,
that it is successful in placing students. Success is measured
in terms of placement rates within three months of graduation
and at an appropriate later time, such as five or 10 years after
graduation. The business standards have no counterpart.
can help by making sure the accounting program has a systematic
plan and a functioning process for advising students about career
choices, making them aware of employment opportunities, and placing
them with corporations and public accounting firms. Because employers
are directly involved in this from the other side of the table,
CPAs in public practice can provide insights to help improve the
program’s plans and processes. Employers can hire students
and track their success within the organization, then send this
information to the appropriate accounting program administrator
on a regular basis.
faculty, as a whole, must have a sufficient number of faculty
members with professional credentials or certifications. In addition,
the accounting faculty must maintain a portfolio of relevant practical
experience. All accounting faculty members must demonstrate ongoing
professional interactions. The nature and extent of these depend
upon the accounting program’s mission. The interaction and
relevant experience should relate to faculty members’ areas
of teaching. The accounting program should have a planning process
that ensures this is happening. The business standards have no
counterparts to these requirements.
are focused on the real world of practice and are unique to accounting
programs. They are explicit recognition that accounting is a profession.
They are designed to keep faculty members current in their discipline
and familiar with issues facing the profession in general. Practitioners
can help tremendously in this area by providing meaningful interaction
and opportunities for relevant experience. Examples include faculty’s
involvement in professional organizations, CPE courses, and personal
meetings with practitioners. Practical experience includes activities
such as developing and presenting CPE, work experience and consulting,
and field-based research. The key is that the interaction and
experience are recent and meaningful. To be meaningful, a faculty
member has to have significant interactions and experiences. Firms
are typically eager to provide class speakers, arrange for on-campus
speakers for larger student audiences, and host luncheons and
dinners that include a speaker, but they are more hard-pressed
to provide data required for field-based and other research projects,
internships, and similar faculty activities.
faculty, as a whole, must be actively involved in making intellectual
contributions consistent with the program’s mission. This
participant standard has a counterpart in the business standards:
the requirement that the program’s mission statement explicitly
address intellectual contributions.
Contributions and Faculty Development
business participant standard requires faculty to have and maintain
the intellectual qualifications and current expertise needed for
the business school to achieve its mission. The accounting program
must separately meet this standard. At least 90% of faculty must
be either academically or professionally qualified. Furthermore,
at least 50% must be academically qualified. Academically qualified
means that a faculty member holds an appropriate terminal degree,
typically a PhD, related to the area of teaching. Professionally
qualified faculty members typically hold a master’s degree
related to their area of teaching and have significant professional
experience in terms of duration and level of responsibility.
member who has not made sufficient intellectual contributions
during the most recent five years can lose either academic or
professional qualification. Intellectual contributions include
learning and pedagogical research, contributions to practice (applied
scholarship), and discipline-based scholarship (basic research).
To enable an accounting program to achieve its mission, the nature
and extent of faculty intellectual contributions needed to maintain
currency and relevancy for an individual faculty member can differ
from what is needed for a cross-section of the faculty as a whole.
to practice include articles published in practice-oriented journals;
published reports on consulting; development and delivery of continuing
professional education; and the development of discipline-based
practice tools. Pedagogical research includes the development
of new course materials, the creation of teaching aids, and research
and experimentation with pedagogy. A mix of these activities,
assuming they are related to the faculty member’s teaching
discipline and are significant in amount and scope, will enable
a faculty member to maintain status. The driving force is currency
and relevancy of knowledge within one’s discipline and accounting
and business in general.
The mix of
activities described above will not necessarily enable the accounting
program to achieve its mission if most faculty members are relying
on these to maintain their status. Most accounting programs must
also have a number of faculty members doing some discipline-based
scholarship that contributes to the theory or knowledge base of
accounting. Such scholarship might be published in practice-oriented
journals, but more likely will be published in academic-oriented
journals and the more scholarly professional journals. Appropriate
outlets vary by accounting discipline and by program mission.
professional accountants must not only be familiar with rules,
regulations, and techniques, but also understand the context,
theory, and underlying basis for what they are doing. This is
so whether the accounting program offers only an undergraduate
degree, or master’s and doctoral degrees as well. Faculty
members engaged in discipline-based research are able to bring
this perspective into the classroom. Discipline-based research,
for this purpose, is defined in a broad and encompassing sense—not
restricted to research published in only so-called top-tier journals.
research has a significant impact on the practice of accounting
and business that is not initially obvious to all practitioners.
Practitioners can readily understand that much research in the
biological and physical sciences leads nowhere, but that without
the failures there would be few successes. The same principle
applies to research in accounting and business. For example, the
research on stock options that led to the recent exposure of the
practice of backdating is a success story, while other academics
have been writing “academic” papers dealing with options
with little apparent impact. But without academics doing discipline-based
research in this area, the unethical practice of backdating might
not have been exposed and debated.
If a master’s
level accounting education is part of an accounting program, then
by virtue of its mission it will have to place more emphasis on
discipline-based research. Even greater emphasis on discipline-based
research is required if the program includes doctoral students.
Publication in the top-tier journals is much more of an issue
for programs with doctoral programs.
administration, through the provost, sets the tone for the nature
and extent of faculty research. The provost will never say that
teaching is secondary, even if it is. But the faculty will know.
The reward structure, salary, promotion, and tenure will dictate
where faculty members spend their time. Greater emphasis on research
means more focus on discipline-based research rather than on contributions
to practice and pedagogy or scholarship of learning. It can mean
less emphasis on teaching and less emphasis on professional interaction,
relevant practical experience, and professional certifications.
school deans start with the tone set by the provost and then either
accept it as the direction to go, or adjust the business school
agenda to place more or less emphasis on research. It is probably
rare for a business school dean to emphasize research to a greater
extent than the provost or the culture of the institution. But
it is also probably the rare dean who successfully educates the
provost if the emphasis on research is out of balance with the
mission of the business school.
after developing an understanding of the mission of the accounting
program within the context of the business school and the larger
university community, should make sure that the emphasis on research
is consistent with enabling accounting faculty to devote appropriate
time to teaching and interaction with students, and to keep abreast
of developments in the profession, business, and their teaching
discipline. The standards take a portfolio approach in that all
faculty members do not have to be doing everything. An accounting
program advisory board member, alum, or recruiter who believes
the allocation of faculty time has gotten out of kilter should
speak up and let the department chair, dean, and university administration
can also make the research part of a faculty member’s job
easier and more meaningful by providing client contacts for research
projects, by allowing access to firm data, and by encouraging
firm members to participate in professors’ studies.
standards that must be met, by the business school as a whole
and by the accounting program itself, require faculty to establish
learning goals for which the assurance of learning is demonstrated
for key general knowledge and skills and management-specific or
appropriate discipline-specific knowledge and skills. Accounting-specific
standards in this area focus on the role of accounting in the
development, measurement, analysis, validation, and communication
of information, and the need for graduates to meet the requirements
for entry into the accounting profession. The standards apply
to both graduate and undergraduate programs. Goals for learning
at the graduate level generally require more breadth, depth, and
integration, depending upon the program.
This is the
part of “the teaching job” that practitioners rarely
see and that students don’t realize is ongoing. It is a
significant part of a faculty member’s job to develop, monitor,
evaluate, and revise the curriculum. Doing this requires that
faculty members determine what they want their students to learn
and then assess whether students have done so.
process should be both direct and indirect. Direct assessment
includes exams, cases, and capstone projects embedded in courses,
as well as stand-alone tests or presentations. Indirect assessment
includes alumni and recruiter surveys and focus groups. There
is no “one size fits all” in assessment; assessment
tools are unique to each program and its mission.
can bring a lot to this process. They can respond to alumni and
recruiter surveys regarding what they learned as students, what
they think other graduates have learned, and how this information
will be needed on the job. In assessing what they learned or what
they expect people they hire to have learned, they should be realistic;
only so much can be done on campus. There is a role for on-the-job
learning and continuing professional education.
on advisory boards can provide input more directly. They should
be specific, providing insights into how certain knowledge or
skill is used on the job, and offering suggestions as to how accounting
programs can help students obtain this knowledge or skill. For
example, repeating that students need better communication skills
and broader business knowledge does not help faculty improve the
of how alumni, advisory board members, and recruiters provide
their input, they should do their own homework. They should think
about what others in their firms expect, keeping in mind differences
between disciplines such as assurance services, consulting, and
tax, and they should also remember that most accounting programs
are designed to enable graduates to obtain entry-level positions
that will lead to a career in accounting or business. Students
need a certain level of knowledge and skills for the entry-level
jobs that they will have upon graduation. They also need the capacity
to develop additional knowledge and skills that will become necessary
as they progress.
P. Arlinghaus, PhD, CPA, is the Deloitte & Touche Professor
of Accountancy at the Farmer School of Business of Miami University,