Promoting the Value of Accounting

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Monday, March 18, 2024
By Rachel Dixon-Zudar, Stephanie Bryant
Illustration by iStock/VectorHot
As the accounting field faces a talent shortage and other challenges, AACSB offers resources designed to support this essential discipline.
  • By adding practitioners to accounting accreditation teams, AACSB has further strengthened the connection between academia and practice.
  • The association speaks out about important issues in the industry and looks for ways to promote the impact of accounting research.
  • AACSB offers educational programming to faculty and administrators, while providing schools with rich benchmarking data.

The field of accounting faces several major challenges as fewer students enroll in accounting programs and new technologies reshape the workplace. Organizations such as the Association of International Certified Public Accountants and the Chartered Institute of Management (AIPCA-CIMA) have shared their plans to fill the pipeline and create a ready supply of new talent with the necessary skills.

AACSB plays an important role in supporting the accounting industry through a variety of activities: accrediting accounting programs to ensure that the quality of education remains high; speaking up on important issues in the industry; offering ongoing learning opportunities for program administrators and faculty; and promoting the value of accounting. Each activity is designed to strengthen the industry and the educational programs offered by AACSB-member schools.

Setting Standards

In 1980, AACSB adopted supplemental accounting standards for schools that wanted an elevated quality assurance system for their accounting programs, and in 1982, the first schools received supplemental accounting accreditation. As the name implies, supplemental accounting accreditation is a complement to business accreditation. To earn accounting accreditation, business schools not only must meet the nine business accreditation standards, but also fulfill the criteria for the six accounting accreditation standards, which are specific to the discipline and profession of accounting. Currently, 194 schools in 10 countries and territories have earned the association’s accounting accreditation.

To keep pace with changes in the industry—and advancements in technology—the association updated the accounting standards in 2018. One of the key changes was the call for incorporating more practitioners into the accreditation process. These practitioners provide consultative guidance on how schools can maintain relevance, integrate technology into the curriculum, promote academic engagement with the accounting profession, and prepare students for the workforce.

Today, we include practitioners on all accounting peer review visit teams, drawing from a pool of more than 30 active professionals. We look for individuals who have at least ten years of full-time experience and who have served on peer review teams at accounting firms or on accounting advisory boards for universities. We also expect these volunteers to have either teaching experience or an understanding of university processes and governance.

Adding practitioners to peer review teams has been widely seen as a positive addition to the process. Of schools that underwent Continuous Improvement Review visits in 2022–23, just over 88 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the presence of practitioners increased the value of their accounting peer review team visits.

We continue to refine our processes, most recently through a pilot program designed for schools that are seeking supplemental accounting accreditation along with regular business accreditation. Historically, these schools were visited by four-member teams that included two academics for the accounting accreditation, plus two academics for the business accreditation. In our new model, teams are made up of two deans for the business accreditation, as well as an accounting representative and an accounting practitioner for conducting the accounting accreditation review. A fifth member can still be added at the request of either the host dean, the peer review team, or AACSB (for training purposes).

To date, this approach has been popular with schools undergoing review. In 2022–23, just over 97 percent of host schools were satisfied or very satisfied with the new model, and almost 82 percent of peer review team members also were satisfied or very satisfied with the experience. AACSB will continue to monitor feedback through the end of 2023–24 before the Accounting Accreditation Policy Committee makes a final decision on whether to continue this format.

Acting as an Advocate

One of the most powerful ways that AACSB bolsters the field of accounting is through advocacy—by speaking out on important issues and working toward necessary solutions. Here are three recent examples.

We articulate concerns. In 2021, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) announced it would suspend publication of its annual Candidate Performance on the Uniform Examination book, which provides ranking information about accounting programs. NASBA viewed this step as a way to focus more attention on a new CPA Evolution initiative that will reflect the changing skills and technical proficiency necessary for today’s accountants.

One of the most powerful ways that AACSB bolsters the field of accounting is through advocacy—by speaking out on important issues and working toward necessary solutions.

But at AACSB, we believe the suspension of the publication could cause great harm to accounting programs, students, the profession, and the public. We joined with the American Accounting Association (AAA) to issue a letter outlining our concerns. We believe the performance book is essential for three reasons: It helps students evaluate the quality of schools; it allows schools to benchmark their programs against their peers; and it enables schools to improve the effectiveness of their curricula by showing them where their exam section pass rates could use improvement.

“Not having this information will significantly impact accounting programs … at a time when accounting majors and CPA exam candidates are declining,” we wrote. Together with the American Accounting Association, we urged NASBA to reconsider its decision and continue to publish the book.

We comment on legislation. AACSB has reached out to the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services to support a new Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code for business analytics programs. In our letter, we ask that the new CIP code be added to the STEM-OPT program that allows foreign students who are pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math degrees to participate in the optional practical training program, which extends their stay in the U.S. for 24 months.

We believe this action would promote faculty and student mobility across universities, which in turn would contribute to the development of the world’s top talent. “The presence of learners from all parts of the world enhances cultural awareness and appreciation for diverse perspectives,” we argue in the letter. “Inclusion of business analytics within the STEM-OPT program will further our mutual goals to link high-quality education to a strong global economy.”

We work toward solutions. In 2023, the association participated in the AAA’s Future Accountant Stakeholder Symposium, which considered the challenges the industry is facing in priming the pipeline. Critical stakeholders gathered to strengthen relationships, brainstorm ideas, and develop a sustainable plan for the good of the accounting profession. Attendees specifically discussed the challenges schools face in branding their programs, as well as the types of programming that should be offered in high school, community college, and university classes.

At this event, AACSB committed to being a supporting organization of the AAA, which means that we will remain engaged, provide thought leadership, and offer ideas.

Promoting Impact

Another way AACSB strengthens the accounting discipline is through activities that enhance the visibility of institutions and individuals that are having an impact in the field.

For instance, the association is a founding partner of the Responsible Research in Business and Management (RRBM) network. As part of that collaboration, AACSB has joined with RRBM and the AAA to sponsor the Award for Research Impacting Societal Challenges, which honors published work that addresses some of the grand challenges facing society today. Papers that are recognized exemplify the Seven Principles of Responsible Research, which emphasize accounting’s power to foster a greater good, improve individual lives, strengthen communities, and make the world a better place.

Last year’s award, which was handed out at the AAA’s annual conference, went to Sudipta Basu, Justin Vitanza, Wei Wang, and Xiaoyu (Ross) Zhu. Their paper “Walking the Walk? Bank ESG Disclosures and Home Mortgage Lending” was published in Review of Accounting Studies. The authors shared a 5,000 USD prize.

AACSB also promotes the visibility of accounting research and educational programs through articles in AACSB Insights. As an example, in one article, we explored how Newcastle University is drawing young women to its accounting programs by removing barriers and holding special events.

Another way AACSB strengthens the accounting discipline is through activities that enhance the visibility of institutions and individuals that are having an impact in the field.

In another article, we detailed the impressive efforts of three different schools. Canisius College in the U.S. has created a 50-member Council of Accountancy to provide students with internships, scholarships, mentorship, and employment opportunities. Southern Alberta’s Institute of Technology in Canada has launched an Aboriginal Financial Management certificate of achievement for First Nations students. And Abu Dhabi University in the United Arab Emirates has created a new elective course to train students to pursue Chartered Institute of Management Accountants certification.

These stories inspire other schools to implement best practices in recruiting students, create impact through their accounting programs, and diversify the talent pool.

Tailoring Association Activities

While AACSB promotes the field of management education generally, certain programs and initiatives are designed for the accounting field specifically. These include learning and development opportunities aimed at accounting faculty and administrators.

  • The Accounting Accreditation Seminar covers the 2018 standards and includes a review of faculty qualification requirements and assurance of learning strategies. It is available online, in-person, or as a private offering.
  • The Department Chairs seminar prepares individuals for leadership roles in a variety of disciplines, including accounting.
  • A webinar called “The Power of STEM in Accounting and Its Impact on Enrollments” was created as a collaboration among AACSB, the AAA, and Miles Education. The webinar addresses the shortfall in the CPA talent pipeline by exploring how STEM-oriented accounting programs can attract international applicants and achieve better outcomes.

AACSB also tracks data about accounting programs to help members benchmark their programs against peer schools. To encourage more schools to participate, AACSB continues to improve and simplify the way it asks them to supply information.

For instance, after the 2021–22 iteration of the Accounting Programs Questionnaire (APQ), we discontinued the questionnaire as a separate standalone survey form. Next, we integrated the various themes of the APQ sections into other relevant survey forms, including the Staff Compensation and Demographics Survey, the Business School Questionnaire (BSQ) Programs Module, and the BSQ Finances Module. APQ benchmarking data and Overview Reports will continue to be available to any accounting-accredited schools that have completed the other three surveys in the same cycle.

This APQ Integration Project was a huge success in its debut year, with 139 accounting-accredited schools completing the other three surveys.

Committed to Impact

Accounting remains an exciting field of vital importance to the business world. Supplemental accounting accreditation signals to students, employers, and all stakeholders that a school is committed to constantly assuring its quality, innovating its programs, and remaining at the forefront of an ever-changing discipline.

As we embrace ongoing changes and challenges together, AACSB continues to provide the leadership and advocacy schools need to have an impact on the accounting discipline, as well as on society in general. Together, we can prepare the next generation of accountants for their critical roles in the workplace and the world.

Rachel Dixon-Zudar
Senior Accreditation Manager, AACSB International
Stephanie Bryant
Executive Vice President and Global Chief Accreditation Officer, AACSB International
The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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