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Accounting education, socialisation and the ethics of business

Ferguson, John and Collison, David and Power, David and Stevenson, Lorna (2011) Accounting education, socialisation and the ethics of business. Business Ethics: A European Review, 20 (1). pp. 12-29.

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Abstract

This study provides empirical evidence in relation to a growing body of literature concerned with the 'socialization' effects of accounting and business education. A prevalent criticism within this literature is that accounting and business education in the UK and US, by assuming a 'value-neutral' appearance, ignores the implicit ethical and moral assumptions by which it is underpinned. In particular, it has been noted that accounting and business education tends to prioritise the interests of shareholders above all other stakeholder groups. The paper reports on the results of a set of focus group interviews with both undergraduate accounting students and students commencing their training with a professional accounting body. The research explores their perceptions about the purpose of accounting and the objectives of business. Findings suggest that both university and professional students' views on these issues tend to be informed by an Anglo-American shareholder discourse, whereby the needs of shareholders are prioritised. Moreover, this shareholder orientation appeared more pronounced for professional accounting students.