URI College of Business Dean helps craft national report on future of accounting education

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Recommendations will alter accounting education as we know it

Kingston, R.I., Aug. 8, 2012 – The future of accounting education is the subject of a study released by the American Institute of CPAs and the American Accounting Association. University of Rhode Island’s Mark Higgins, dean of the College of Business Administration, was instrumental in crafting the in-depth assessment and wide-reaching recommendations as the leader of one of the report’s three working groups.

Higgins is currently at an American Accounting Association conference in Washington, D.C., where the report is being released to the Association membership and others in the accounting industry.

“A key premise of this report is for the accounting profession to become a learned profession,” said Higgins, who holds the Alfred J. Verrecchia and Hasbro Inc. Leadership Chair in Business at URI. “Traditionally the ‘learned professions’ comprise law, medicine, and theology. For accounting to become a learned profession, the accounting profession must better integrate accounting research, education, and practice for the betterment of our students, as well as the practice and education communities.”

Created in 2010, the Pathways Commission on Accounting Higher Education was tasked with studying the issue. It investigated ways to enhance the opportunities and the relevance of accounting education. Eighteen months later, the Commission’s final report, titled “Charting a National Strategy for the Next Generation of Accountants,” concluded that all too frequently, accounting students are exposed to technical material in a vocation-focused manner that is disconnected from the real world.

Higgins will serve as co-chair of the Pathways Commission for the next three years, leading the implementation process of the report recommendations.

The Pathways Commission consists of more than 50 professionals in the accounting industry, encompassing every practicing area including public and corporate accounting, education, and government. The Pathways Commission considered accounting education in its broadest sense and addressed difficult and persistent issues and challenges in order to prepare the ambitious report, which is available at http://commons.aaahq.org/groups/2d690969a3/summary. It features seven overarching recommendations. Among them:

• integrate accounting research, education, and practice for students, practitioners, and educators, and research must be more fully integrated with professionally oriented faculty;

• create multiple pathways to doctoral programs to meet the future demand for faculty;

• reform accounting education so that teaching is respected and rewarded;

• develop curriculum models and engaging learning resources and mechanisms for easily sharing them; enhance faculty development opportunities to maintain a robust curriculum.

Each recommendation has specific objectives, action items, and possible impediments.

The impetus for the report came from a U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Advisory Committee on the Auditing Profession report that recommended the American Accounting Association and the American Institute of CPAs study the structure of higher education for the accounting profession.