Striking a Balance in Management Accounting Curricula: Have the Views of Educators and Practitioners Changed Between 2001 and 2010?

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Striking a balance in management accounting curricula: have the views of educators and practitioners changed between 2001 and 2010?

Michael Fowler

Eastern Institute of Technology, Hawke's Bay.

Striking a balance in management accounting curricula: have the views of educators and practitioners changed between 2001 and 2010?

Abstract

A replica study of Tan, Fowler and Hawkes (2004) using their 2001 questionnaire was conducted in 2010 to compare any differences over a nine year period of the importance of 21 management accounting topics that educators and practitioners considered important for a graduate who intends to pursue a career in management accounting. The survey results for both 2001 and 2010 indicate that educators viewed performance evaluation, product costing, behavioural implications and activity-based costing as their top four important topics. Practitioners viewed cash flow management, operational budgeting and variance analysis most important in 2001 and 2010. Product costing which ranked eighth in 2001, came in as the second most important practitioners' topic for 2010. The elevation of product costing may indicate management accountants’ use of techniques may be reactionary to the external environment, which has been difficult over the past few years. The overall results confirm the 2001 survey that practitioners still tend to favour traditional management accounting techniques, with educators emphasing modern techniques as more important.

Keywords: Management accounting education

Introduction
Since the 1970s, the relevance of management accounting curriculum in preparing students for practice has been the subject of wide debate (Deakin and Summers, 1975). This discussion intensified during the 1980s and 1990s when new management accounting techniques, such as activity-based costing (ABC) and strategic management accounting (SMA) were developed. These can be described as ‘advanced’ management accounting techniques, and were created in response to a globalised and more complex business environment. Most of the ‘traditional’ management accounting techniques, such as break even analysis, standard costing and transfer pricing were developed by 1925, and Kaplan in 1984 stated that little development had occurred since. Discussion then centered on what techniques ─ both advanced and traditional, should belong in a management accounting curriculum. Moreover, the discussion of a ‘gap’ between what techniques educators were teaching and practitioners were using also became topical. The purpose of this study is to compare the 2001 results reported by Tan, Fowler and Hawkes (2004) against those in 2010 by using the same questionnaire on the importance and use of management accounting topics between educators and practitioners. This study has implications for tertiary educators and professional bodies such as the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA), who are responsible for determining management accounting courses in tertiary education. Literature Review

The debate of what to include in a management accounting curriculum began in the 1970s, and intensified in the 1980s and 1990s, when new management accounting techniques began to appear in response to globalization and technological developments in business (Deakin and Summers, 1975; Knight and Zook 1982; Szendi and Elmore, 1993). A New Zealand study in 2001 reported by Tan et al. (2004) confirmed the mainly U.S. research that practitioners favoured use of traditional management accounting techniques (Knight and Zook, 1982; Lander and Reinstein, 1987; Robinson and Barrett (1987), and that educators emphasised advanced management accounting techniques (Edwards and Emmanuel, 1990; Cable, Healy, and Mathew, 2009). Since Tan et al. (2004) the discussion on the use of management accounting techniques by practitioners, and their topic inclusion in the curriculum has continued. Several studies found that traditional...
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