Trevor Hopper


Differences between accounting researchers and many accounting practitioners and professional institutions on what constitutes the domain of accounting has grown considerably over the past fifty years. In contrast to the frequent allegations that accounting researchers pay insufficient attention to the needs and problems of practice, this paper argues the converse, namely that accounting education and training within universities and professional courses neglect accounting research. This has consequences for the legitimacy of accounting as a profession, inhibits developing skills sought by prospective employers, and can blind practice to the emergence of important new issues. Recently, there have been calls from academics to redefine accounting. In addition to including technical practices, they seek greater emphasis on ethics, morality, theory, sustainability, and accountability. This broader, interdisciplinary approach focuses on public rather than private interests; seeks broader, often non-financial reporting on sustainability goals; serving a wider range of stakeholders; and devising new processes of accountability, especially to empower civil society groups. Illustrations of these themes are explored in the paper. It concludes by offering ways to reform accounting courses. Ideally academic and professional leaders could devise, on an equal footing, courses leading to qualification as a professional accounting that better serve the needs of employers and utilise scientific academic research. Failing this universities could offer two accounting degrees, one emphasising technical material and exemptions from professional examinations, and another more oriented to contemporary accounting research and develops skills sought by employers relating to communication, continuous
learning, critical analysis, and multi-functional teamwork.