Future Professional: the Journey

A call for broader professional education

For the past couple of years, the foresight initiatives developed by AuditFutures have sought to rethink important aspects of the accountancy profession in an exponentially changing world. By asking uncomfortable questions and thinking proactively ahead, our action-research work has shown to disrupt the status quo in order to develop progressive ideas in the areas of professional education, innovative and responsive practice, and wider organisational change.

In order to develop cross-disciplinary collaboration and to mobilise people to tackle issues together, AuditFutures has developed a unique platform to empower leading scholars and practitioners in discussing, planning and designing ideas together.

In the past few years, we have turned to the importance of education, as a foundation of the wider professional ethos and as a formative power to disrupt and also foster the capacities of critical judgment and moral sensitivity in aspiring professionals.

With this publication, AuditFutures hopes to prompt uncomfortable discussions and to catalyse proactive ideas about the role of education in fostering the future professional. It aims to bring to the fore critical practices, powerful techniques and ideas that have the power to change current perceptions within practice and society. The aim of the education initiatives and this report, is to create a more powerful narrative for the future of education; in addition, it aims to engage progressive educators in sharing their work and supporting them to take more radical steps in improving pedagogy, curriculum and education policy.

In efforts to engage motivated scholars and think proactively together, we have actively engaged with a number of leading universities and professional services firms, where we have facilitated CPD workshops, curriculum design planning, student seminar sessions and student projects. Our projects have taken a particular interest in the aims and framework of liberal learning, and the ability of liberal education practices to broaden accounting education and training – as to support the development of future capacities and attitudes for lifelong learning.

In support of these efforts and in order to respond to issues regarding motivation and capacities, we have looked up to research in the learning sciences and philosophy of education. This has helped us to articulate an argument for:

  • a broader professional curriculum that contextualises technical content within its broader social purpose, and
  • to further bring attention to the importance of reflective and dialectic thinking in developing more reflective and adaptive professionals.

We take the opportunity to support and advance the notion of holistic education experience, which does not concern the development of mere technical expertise, but puts emphasis on the development of professional identity, emotional sensitivity and moral motivation in learners and aspiring professionals.

Key points from the report

New context in an exponentially changing world

Uncertainties presented by the exponentially changing nature of work, advancement in technologies and the cultural shifts, increasingly challenge the role of professions and put pressure on education. As the accountancy profession expands its global services and its intake diversifies, it faces significant challenges to the previously shared values, educational experiences and overall ethos of the profession. Similarly, these shifts question the value of accounting degrees and the role of university education in equipping professionals for the future.

The complexity of the business context poses new challenges to the structure and process of education, and raises the importance of investing in knowledge, skills and habits of mind that could improve individual lifelong learning prospects, resilience and adaptability. It is important to understand what conditions could ensure that professionalism is developed and ethical standards internalised, so that they have a lasting impact on attitudes and behaviour in the workplace.

A richer vision for the future professional

The report argues that accountancy is a social science discipline and a creative practice that is informed by, and contributes to, key issues within business, political economy, human rights, ethics and sustainable development. As such, it calls for professionals with a moral orientation, socio-emotional intelligence and creative vision for innovating services and solving problems. Professional expertise should not relate to technical knowledge but should embrace a more holistic vision of the future professional — by also looking at the values and characteristics that are needed, but also why they are needed beyond the ends of economic consumption. A professional requires a number of interwoven components, like the intertwined strands of the DNA.

We ask – what makes one excellent, engaged and ethical?

Conditions that foster future professional competencies

This makes a strong case for designing ‘ethical systems’ within the process of education and the culture of practice, which immerse individuals in the conditions where the right competencies and qualities could flourish. We further examine the conditions and experiences that education can create, in order to enable or trigger the expression and development of these characteristics, commitments and skills.

Significant stages of professional development

The development of a professional could be mapped out as a continuous journey. As such, we emphasize the need to explore in depth the interdependent elements and processes that interact to develop one’s identity, professional culture and ethos. We particularly draw attention to the role of university education in its power to disrupt students’ ethical perceptions, and to foster the capacities of critical judgment and social intelligence.

Powerful education experience that develops a sense of liberation, curiosity and commitment in aspiring professionals. 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.

What is next? 

The report develops an argument for the future of accounting education, but also opens up as space for reflection and proactive engagement from academia and practice. We aim to engage further leading academics to hear and support their work and research.

We want to hear from you to develop these ideas further. Please consider the following:

  • Engage with us through ICAEW’s Academia & Education Community group
  • Join ICAEW’s Partner in Learning scheme for students and academic events, placement years and work experience, sharing learning materials, student skills sessions and much more.
  • Initiate and suggest partnership projects between us and your university
  • Collaborate with us to develop a university-specific engagement from curriculum design, faculty-wide plenary sessions and student-led projects
  • Showcase your practice and engage with other academics by developing short blogs, case studies and/or videos that we can put on our website
  • Talk to us about ideas to bridge education-policy-practice
  • Nominate a scholar who you think is doing something worth sharing!