This thesis investigates why accountancy graduates are not preferred by large accountancy firms. This investigation is underpinned by two key factors sought by large accountancy recruiters: the ability of trainees to pass professional examinations (paper 1) and the development of non-technical skills by prospective trainees at the recruitment stage (paper 2 and paper 3). Paper 1 investigates the factors influencing the performance of Big 4 trainees in the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotlands (ICAS) Test of Professional Skill Examinations with the key finding being that there is no significant difference in performance between accounting and non-accounting graduates. Through a questionnaire to Big 4 trainees, paper 2 finds that non-accounting graduates perceive their development of intellectual skills at university significantly higher than accounting graduates although accounting graduates perceive their development of team working skills superior to non-accounting graduates. These findings are explored further through interviews with 11 Scottish academics who have oversight of accountancy degrees. The interviewees identify that they needed to prioritise which non-technical skills to develop due to limited space available after satisfying the normative pressure of accreditation. In the remaining unaccredited space, interviewees revealed a priority for interpersonal and communication skills which may detract from intellectual skill development. Paper 3 expands on the interviews from paper 2 to establish the existence of economic and education logic in Scottish undergraduate accountancy education and investigates how the balance of these impacts on course content decisions made by Scottish accountancy degree providers. Accreditation, a carrier of economic logic, is identified as the key driver of course content. In addition, Paper 3 identifies and explores a number of institutional conflicts between accreditation and carriers of education logic, along with coping strategies employed in relation to these conflicts.
DOUGLAS, S. 2017. Does an accounting degree add up? An investigation into the professional exam performance and non-technical skill development of accounting degree graduates. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.