Issuing a Challenge to the Profession: Preparing Today’s and Tomorrow’s Educators and Researchers in Emerging Economies
Professor Katherine Schipper, Thomas F. Keller Professor of Accounting, Duke University, and Professor Donna Street, Mahrt Chair in Accounting, University of Dayton | August 19, 2014 | 7
Scholars in emerging economies begin their careers as accounting educators and researchers with excitement and high aspirations. They eagerly accept the challenge of educating future generations of accounting professionals in developing countries. They understand that the demand for well-trained accounting professionals is high, often exceeding the supply, and they are determined to have a positive effect—to make a difference.
The reality faced by these scholars can be discouraging. In some cases, university curricula and textbooks are dated and based on local accounting and auditing practices. In an emerging economy that has adopted international accounting and auditing standards, training in local practices is not what is needed to prepare today’s and tomorrow’s accounting professionals. Curricula are in need of wholesale overhaul. That task increasingly falls to early career scholars.
In addition, to remain relevant, these scholars are expected to publish research in international journals, where they compete with researchers from around the world, including developed countries in Europe and North America. Unfortunately, in many cases, doctoral education for scholars in emerging economies does not prepare them well for either curriculum development or research, and there are often few or no local mentors to turn to.
These scholars face research, teaching, and curriculum development demands and typically lack the opportunities to develop the skills and knowledge needed to meet those demands. Some of the scholars attending workshops offered by the International Association for Accounting Education and Research (IAAER) and funded by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), in, for example, Romania, South Africa, and Malaysia, earned doctoral degrees at universities in emerging economies (often from the universities where they are on faculty) and to a large extent they are, of necessity, “self-trained.” In the absence of support and guidance from successful researchers, many focus on replicating previously published research using local data. While they find the workshops, including feedback from experienced researchers, valuable in improving their proposals, the workshops are far from sufficient. These scholars need regular, ongoing access to and support from experienced researchers, and they need to develop a network that includes not only colleagues from their own countries but also, and importantly, successful researchers in other countries.
One obvious solution—reaching out internationally for both curriculum development support and mentorship in research—is often impracticable because of limited (or no) funding for international conferences or networking and limited or no sense of where to start to develop the knowledge, skills, and a commitment of support from an experienced scholar.
Five accounting scholars from emerging economies found the answer when the Deloitte IAAER Scholarship program was launched in February 2013. The program currently funds five Deloitte IAAER scholars from Brazil, Indonesia, Poland, Romania, and South Africa to attend IAAER events. More importantly, the Deloitte IAAER Scholarship Program provides each scholar with a mentor, a successful senior accounting educator and researcher who is committed to aiding the scholar’s professional development.
To date, the scholars have attended IAAER events in Frankfurt, Germany; Bucharest, Romania; Cergy, France; and San Antonio, US, where they experienced hands-on learning, built networks, and gained a better sense of how the accountancy profession, accounting education, and accounting scholarship are developing around the world. At these events, and in email and telephone communications between events, each scholar interacts with his/her mentor and with the other scholars, providing and receiving ongoing feedback, mutual support, and encouragement. The next meeting of the scholars will be in November 2014 at the IAAER World Congress of Accounting Educators and Researchers in Florence, Italy. The scholars will present papers, attend research and teaching sessions, and continue to expand and solidify their networks.
The Deloitte IAAER Scholarship Program also aims to narrow the divide between academics and the accountancy profession. By establishing a link between the scholars and their local Deloitte offices, the program is beginning to influence curricula. A greater connection and regular contact with real-world practice and practitioners enriches scholars’ teaching and research and helps them understand how to access resources and apply their own experience and knowledge in the classroom. The program reinforces the importance of academic-professional collaborations to develop students that are fully prepared to meet professional demands.
We believe the Deloitte IAAER Scholarship Program is an important step in addressing the pressing need to build accounting teaching and research skills in emerging economies. We participate as mentors in the program, and we are convinced that the combination of access to mentors and being part of an international network are making a significant difference for both the scholars and their colleagues in their home institutions. We believe the program will raise the teaching and research standards achievable by future accountants, contributing in the long term to improvements in accounting, auditing, and financial reporting. The initial five scholars are becoming role models for their colleagues, who will in turn be able to enhance their own curriculum development, teaching, and research skills.
We are honored to be part of the Deloitte IAAER Scholarship Program. Interacting with the scholars, and witnessing their commitment to professional development and their growth as educators and researchers is inspiring. Deloitte has set the example by funding the first scholars and encouraging links between the scholars and the firm’s local offices.
Supporting five scholars is a good beginning, but far from a solution to the problems faced by the accounting profession in developing countries. When others see the progress of the five Deloitte IAAER Scholars, we hope they will want to be involved. IAAER mentors stand ready to work with additional promising, early-career scholars in emerging economies, but more sponsors are needed. IAAER mentorship and networking benefits not only the scholars, but also their students, their universities, their local accounting professionals, and the global accounting community. The scholarship program benefits all involved—including sponsors and mentors. We challenge additional sponsors to fund additional scholarships to enable the IAAER to expand its scholarship program.