In order to provoke creative and reflective thinking, and connect professionals to complex future global problems, we have conducted shorter catalyst interventions in schools, universities and practice. The sessions and workshops have both informed and inspired practitioners and students by providing context, empowering students through dialogue and challenging the role, relevance and future needs of accountancy and finance practice.
Topics that have become pivotal are 1) the rising threat of automation, 2) the role of accountancy in global sustainability goals and human development, and 3) the future qualities and competencies needed from professionals
University education is a formative experience that should develop a sense of liberation, curiosity and commitment in aspiring professionals.
The changing nature of the accountancy profession calls for critical education and training that broadens the perspective of learners beyond the required excellence through technical knowledge and skills, but proactively guides them to develop understanding of higher purpose, values, public good, and ethical leadership.
We have explored research within the learning sciences to develop an argument for designing approaches and methods that enable deeper and effective learning. We see constructivist pedagogical methods, democratic conditions and richer philosophical content as the foundations for powerful education experience in accountancy. We want to enrich the field of accountancy education by testing out new tools and methods for deeper learning, knowledge construction and identity formation.
A powerful education requires a holistic vision about the formal and informal components that contribute to students’ learning and experience. The work of AuditFutures University has piloted and tested the method of ‘philosophical inquiry’ to emphasise the importance of critical thinking, habits of mind and character building in the context of accountancy degrees. The liberal arts component and the emphasis on critical inquiry have been used to make sense of professional standards and in fostering discretion instead of compliance.
The university initiatives led by AuditFutures have investigated and designed educational practices and culture that could foster the conditions for the promotion of excellence, ethics and engagement in aspiring professionals. Recent findings in the learning sciences research tell us that:
We are currently collaborating and building capacity in leading academics in the field who are interested in developing students’ critical thinking skills, professional judgement and moral motivation. Through CPD workshops and bespoke curriculum planning/design, we work with leading universities to enhance expertise in their teaching staff and provide induction sessions into the culture and pedagogical methods. We have conducted multiple training sessions and curriculum consultations with leading UK business schools that have successfully integrated our theory and approach within their coursework and curricula.
We draw on both problem and project-based approaches to learning, to create ‘authentic contexts’ of learning, such as case studies, scenario building, and design thinking, in which students engage with real-life dilemmas/situations and work in groups to resolve problems or create new solutions. Learners are given the chance to work through real complex problems and derive new conclusions, instead of simply memorising textbook materials (although they are encouraged to challenge and build on such materials). We are working with a number of universities to develop such student-led projects and to showcase their work on a national level.
We have most recently worked with Manchester Business School and Durham Business School to engage students in Research Poster Project. You can find out more here.
We support lifelong learning practices that develop and retain talent by engaging and supporting novice professionals to enhance their capacity and commitment to the profession. In partnership with businesses, accounting firms and civil society organisations, we design and host workshops for junior professionals that aim to capture their enthusiasm, inspire and empower them to take a more dynamic role in shaping their future profession.
These one-off sessions that take place once a year as part of the regular class time of university modules. Run as interactive workshops and featuring guest talks and multimedia presentations, the sessions inspire students and challenge their thinking. Building on the course content, the sessions are structured in three levels: inquiry and social context; complexity and systems thinking; design thinking and innovation.
These half-day events bring together students and academics from accounting and other disciplines, as well as practitioners, businesses and civil society leaders from local communities to galvanise interest in the greater purpose of the accountancy profession. Sessions explore multidisciplinary issues and ideas within accounting, auditing and finance and connect them with wider social challenges.