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The ’future’ accountant: the role of accounting education in preparation for professional realities (SF19/AFM/BURDON)

Project Description

“our knowledge about the incomplete connection that exists between student academic experiences and professional realities (e.g., work-life expectations, professional certifications) has been substantively established [….] we now need to identify and evaluate the types of educational interventions that close this gap most effectively” Apostolou et al. (2017)

“The interaction of curriculum, technology, faculty incentives, and student motivation is complex and has not been studied in an organic way” (Apostolou et al. 2013).

Questions have been raised to how educators can bridge the gap between both current higher education (henceforth HE) and professional qualification provisions, and the ‘professional realities’ and skills required by the ‘future’ accountant (Apostolou et al. 2017; ICAEW, 2016). Within the literature there is critque of a stagnation in accounting education, and a disconnect between higher education and practice (Rebel & Pierre, 2015). These are also discussed within practice in the context of the wider issue of skills gap within the marketplace (ICAEW, 2016; ACCA, 2017) with some proposals that apprenticeships may be the route forward.

The accounting profession is advancing rapidly with use of technology, and increasingly a focus on future use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) (ICAEW, 2017). The changing landscape of technology, means that traditional approaches to accounting education are rapidly becoming outdated. Accounting education needs to embrace the idea of inter-disciplinary collaboration, particularly regards to AI, with in order to meet the long-term demands of the profession (Sutton et al. 2016). This research would explore the current integration of technology teaching in accounting programmes within the UK HE environment, and how this may contribute to the perceived skills gap for ‘future’ accountants.

Many institutions (and the literature) focus on employability skills, and how these are built into the curricula. By investigating the changing nature of technology in the accounting profession, the study would naturally inform HE practice, responding to the changing needs of its future ‘customers’. The research would help to inform what an employable accounting graduate will ‘look’ like in the future, and whether current accounting education models meet the needs of the future generations ‘professional realities’.

ACCA (2017). UKs skills gap can be addressed by apprenticeships. Downloaded from
Apostolou, B, Dorminey, JW, Hassell, JM and Rebele, JE (2017). Accounting education literature review. Journal of Accounting Education, 43.1-23.
Apostolou, B., Dorminey, J. W., Hassell, J. M., & Watson, S. F. (2013). Accounting education literature review (2010–2012). Journal of Accounting Education, 31(2), 107-161.
ICAEW (2016). Skills of the future accountant. Downloaded from
Rebele, J. E., & Pierre, E. K. S. (2015). Stagnation in accounting education research. Journal of Accounting Education, 33(2), 128-137.
Sutton, S. G., Holt, M., & Arnold, V. (2016). “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”—Artificial intelligence research in accounting. International Journal of Accounting Information Systems, 22, 60-73.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF19/…) will not be considered.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality and is a member of the Euraxess network, which delivers information and support to professional researchers.

Funding Notes

Please note this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend.


Recent publications by supervisors relevant to this project:

Burdon, W. M., & Munro, K. (2017). Simulation–is it all worth it? The impact of simulation from the perspective of accounting students. The International Journal of Management Education, 15(3), 429-448.

Burdon, W. M., & Sorour, M. K. (2018). Institutional Theory and Evolution of ‘A Legitimate’Compliance Culture: The Case of the UK Financial Service Sector. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-34.

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