The accounting profession has been undergoing dramatic change as a result of trends such as globalization, heightened investor expectations and increasing litigation. Now, a new centre at U of T Mississauga will be able to unpack their ramifications, and help sustain the relevance and resiliency of the profession.
The Professional Accounting Centre (PAC) is a space where researchers, professional accountants and regulators from around the world can examine and problem-solve the challenges facing the field of accounting. Officially launched on Nov. 26, the centre will conduct research on the most pressing issues currently impacting the profession in order to improve understanding of professional issues, leadership, and the overall effectiveness and efficiency of financial operations within enterprises across the globe.
“The accounting profession is experiencing increasing complexity, so there was a need for a centre that would focus on research problems that were coming before it, and that would help advance the prospects of the profession and the education of accounting students,” says Professor Len Brooks, the centre’s director.
Created in January, the centre was in the works for three years, and was developed by Brooks in consultation with key organizations within Canada’s accounting profession, as well as UTM leadership and faculty members. The centre is guided by two boards made up of accounting professionals and regulators from varied practice areas: an advisory board that will provide a perspective from the profession to the director; and a research adjudication board that will review and advise on research programs and the allocation of research funding. PAC will be seeking research partnerships with professional accounting bodies, firms, university research centres and individuals involved in the profession.
“PAC is providing an exceptional pool of professionals and setting a worldwide standard for others to match,” said Professor Deep Saini, Vice-President, U of T and Principal of U of T Mississauga. “The expertise and research emerging from PAC will inform both the profession and its pedagogy, positively impacting our students.”
Among the topics the centre will investigate are: responding to the impact of globalization; improving financial and environmental disclosure; understanding fiduciary responsibility; and promoting an effective firm culture. These topics will be explored in a variety of modes, including themed research funding and conferences, a working paper series, video presentations, and publications in professional accounting journals. The research findings will benefit the scholarly community, as well as the profession and its stakeholders worldwide.
PAC is an independent centre within UTM that is supported by the school’s Institute for Management & Innovation, which houses UTM’s Master of Management & Professional Accounting, Diploma in Investigative & Forensic Accounting and Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting. Brooks says the activities of the centre will provide students in these programs with more meaningful learning experiences in multiple ways, and also positively raise the profiles of these programs.
“The programs and students will benefit from the fact that we are doing this kind of work. We will be involving students in working with researchers, and any of our findings will be disseminated into our classrooms,” Brooks says. “This will also help us attract the best and brightest students from around the world to these programs.”
Tricia O’Malley, chair of the International Forum of Accounting Standard Setters, was a guest speaker at the launch event for PAC and sits on the centre’s advisory board. “One of the key challenges facing the accounting industry is that we talk to each other a lot about how important we are, but that doesn’t resonate well with a lot of people.”
It’s a challenge to maintain the value proposition of accounting, and research could help us determine if we still have the respect of our stakeholders.”
“Real evidence, rather than opinion, is needed to convince people about the importance of good financial reporting,” says O’Malley. “The formation of the Professional Accounting Centre plays directly to what policy makers see as a need, and that also provides confidence to the market.”