Research & Discussion Themes

The Professional Accounting Centre (PAC) has as its mission to stimulate research and discussion on the issues facing professional accounting both globally and locally, through a variety of initiatives.  PAC will focus on the professional accounting mandate, role, ethics, standards, behaviour, and techniques involved in preparing and providing high quality data for users and providing assurance of its credibility.  Research findings will benefit the scholarly community as well as the profession and its stakeholders worldwide.  In addition, findings will inform instructors and enhance the curricula of graduate and undergraduate programs at U of T Mississauga and beyond.

In particular, PAC will stimulate research and discussion on issues facing professional accounting and accountants in all aspects, such as: public accounting, management, governance, taxation, and professional services, mainly under the following themes:

  • The nature of professionalism
  • Drivers of change
  • Enhancing relevance and value added
  • Developments that may influence professional accounting

These themes are intended to be forward looking, and are expected to encompass issues that cannot be foreseen at the outset.  Research projects will be undertaken that build upon sound earlier work, where possible, and are expected to generate contributions on one or more themes.  Discussion stimulation through conferences and other means will be undertaken in order to disseminate research results, or to bring timely attention to important emergent matters. 

The following guidelines are provided for possible content within the four themes.


The Nature of Professionalism

This theme is intended to examine and contribute to an understanding of aspects of professionalism in professional accounting, such as the following, with the goal of enhancing its utility and sustainability:

  • What are the values and other aspects that define professional accounting?
  • Changes in key values and aspects of professional accounting, including:
    • Professional ethics
    • Professional skepticism
    • Professional practice.
  • Are those values different for professional accountants in different roles, such as: assurance, management, governance including Board membership, regulation, investment information, as well as consulting and forensic services.
  • Professional accountants are to serve the “public interest”, but does the “public interest” differ for professional accountants in public practice from that in management, governance, or other roles?
  • Threats to and opportunities for professionalism in professional accounting.


Drivers of Change

In order to prepare for future challenges, professional accountants must identify and understand the nature of their professionalism, and the drivers of change that need to be faced successfully.  Where possible, projects will explore the identification of drivers of change, and the range of successful adaptions to the changes involved.  Issues that might be explored could include such as:

  • Business and/or competitive pressures such as those leading to:
    • Harmful fee pressure.
    • Conflicts of interest.
    • Multinational/cultural differences.
  • Improper responses to pressures or drivers of change.
  • Technological and other changes that require new talents, skills, and capabilities, or to management associated with them, such as:
    • Data analytics, integrated reporting, risk management assurance, …
  • New accounting or auditing standards of growing complexity.
  • New expectations for the professional accountant’s role, knowledge and competencies.
  • Changes in enforcement regimes.  For example, if the responsibility for reporting is a three-legged stool that includes preparers, approvers (Board) and the auditor, would increasing investigation, discipline and penalties for preparers and/or approvers improve reporting?
  • Investigations into reporting and/or audit challenges such as those involved in auditing in emerging economies.


Enhancing Relevance & Value Added

A key aspect of a sustainable and healthy future for professional accounting is that the relevance and value added by accounting professionals are continually enhanced in fact, and that the public perceive these changes, and the overall levels of relevance and value-added positively.  Projects in this research and discussion theme could include:

  • Evolution of / definition of / role of the professional accountant in the new environment and in the future
  • Evidence-based rationales for or against standards and positions.
  • Simplification of reporting regimes.
  • Reduction of information overload.
  • Innovative approaches to reporting, such as: a new orientation to cash flow, integrative reporting of financial and non-financial information, and risk management, etc.
  • New services to be offered
  • New enforcement and/or governance regimes for professional accounting.


Developments That May Influence Professional Accounting

PAC’s mandate will be best served if there is a responsibility to explore developments that may influence professional accounting in the future including such matters as:

  • Competition – Are there enough big firms?
  • The Partnership Model – Is it sustainable?
  • Governance in a Global Enterprise – Are standards & values common?
  • Governance expertise and responsibilities of professional accountants (including such matters as organizational culture, values alignment, and feedback mechanisms, etc.)
  • Will common standards be nullified by differential applications?
  • Talent Gaps – Management Issues with regard to talent development and retention.
  • CSR/Sustainability Reporting and investing.

Where possible, PAC will assist in fostering new shared infrastructural opportunities between researchers, professional accounting bodies, regulators, and firms to share data and research interests for the benefit of all.


April 2015

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Research Projects Underway

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Research Project Completed

A Study of the Relevance of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to Market Participants, Research Report & White Paper Overview