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Major award recognises collaborative effort to boost accounting standards

21 Nov 2012

An outstanding collaborative effort resulting in a successful three year project to establish and implement a set of uniform learning standards across Australia's providers of accounting degrees has been recognised by the Business/Higher Education Round Table (B/HERT).

The Development and Assessment of Accounting Learning Standards project was led by the University of Sydney Business School's Associate Professor Mark Freeman and Professor Phil Hancock of the University of Western Australia.

"The first step in 2010 was to achieve consensus around a set of industry-oriented threshold learning standards for accounting bachelor and coursework masters degrees," said Professor Freeman. "This involved over 2,100 participants nationally, representing 38 Australian universities, 21 private and other providers, and 20 other key stakeholders including professional and peak bodies."

The second step has brought together 17 Australian educational institutions and professional bodies with the aim of developing an agreed process for evidencing those outcomes.

"A lack of consistency in learning standards across the sector frustrated industry," Professor Freeman said. "It was also clear that some employers were not fully satisfied with graduate capabilities, especially soft skills like communication and teamwork."

"Ultimately, this initiative has been aimed at enhancing the quality of accounting education across Australia, ensuring industry can be confident in Australia's acounting graduates and proving there are other benefits from working more collaboratively," he added.

B/HERT is a not-for-profit organisation established in 1990 to strengthen the relationship between the private sector and educators by bringing together leaders in higher education, business, industry bodies and research institutions.

The accounting learning outcomes project was undertaken in cooperation with key industry stakeholders including CPA Australia, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia and the Australian Business Deans Council. 

According to B/HERT the project represented "Excellence in Accounting Teaching Collaboration".

The Dean of the University of Sydney Business School, Professor Geoffrey Garrett has congratulated Professor Freeman and others involved in project. "Our education programs must be relevant to industry and must produce graduates with outstanding and verifiable skills," Professor Garrett said.

"Well informed, business oriented accountants with world class skills and an ability to effectively apply those skills are keenly sought after by organisations looking to prosper in Australia's dynamic commercial sector, Professor Freeman concluded. "We not only have a set of standards that meet the needs of industry but we can provide reliable and valid evidence to show that accounting students meet those standards."