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A federation survey of members this year reported more than 40 unfilled positions for PhD professors of accounting, a core discipline for business students. (Comstock/Getty Images/Comstock Images)
A federation survey of members this year reported more than 40 unfilled positions for PhD professors of accounting, a core discipline for business students. (Comstock/Getty Images/Comstock Images)

Business School News

Not enough accounting PhDs? Add to ...

The Globe's weekly Business School news roundup.

Accountants are in demand, but so are the PhD-trained professors who teach students heading into the profession.

“There is a supply-side problem,” says Daphne Taras, dean of the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan, with the largest accounting faculty in Western Canada. “A lot of people are attracted to the profession of accounting but as soon as they get their professional designation they become accountants and are not drawn back to academic life.”

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She is one of several deans who are examining the issue – and possible solutions – for the Canadian Federation of Business School Deans. A federation survey of members this year reported more than 40 unfilled positions for PhD professors of accounting, a core discipline for business students.

Concern about a shortage comes as the School of Accounting and Finance at the University of Waterloo, one of the major suppliers of PhD accounting graduates in the country, welcomes a new director July 1.

Tom Scott, currently vice-dean and professor of accounting at the Alberta School of Business at the University of Alberta, says he wants Waterloo’s school to be part of the solution.

“It is an issue for anyone at any business school generally and it is an issue for us,” he says.

One explanation for the shortage is the growth in business education at universities and colleges, creating competition for accounting and finance faculty. Dean Taras says she successfully recruits assistant professors at between $135,000 and $160,000 a year. “That is the price of [having] a strong accounting school,” she says.

Another relates to career choices. Prospective candidates must invest between four and five years in a PhD, living on a student budget, when they could graduate with an accounting degree and immediately earn a professional salary. “It’s a big opportunity cost,” says Prof. Scott.

Over time, he hopes Waterloo could graduate an additional one or two more PhDs in accounting every year, compared with two at present. He wants to play on Waterloo’s strength as a place where researchers across disciplines – accounting, mathematics, computer science – have a history of collaboration. Nurturing such a culture, with resources for researchers to carry out their work in a timely manner, would encourage young academics to stay the course, he says.

“The idea is to get enough quality PhDs graduated that the supply and demand gets back into balance a little better,” he says. “The University of Waterloo is committed to research and good PhD programs facilitate good research because they are collaborative between the professor and the student.”

Aboriginal outreach

Forging partnerships is nothing new for Kekinusuqs-Judith Sayers, a former First Nation chief who now teaches law and business at the University of Victoria.

As chief of the Hupacasath First Nation on Vancouver Island for 14 years, she made local capacity-building, sustainable development and land rights a priority. During her tenure, her community created a new source of revenue by collaborating with Ucluelet First Nation and the city of Port Alberni to sell green power (hydro-electricity produced by diverting creek water over a vertical drop) under a 20-year contract to BC Hydro.

Her appointment as National Aboriginal Economic Development Chair gives her a new platform to link native communities and those who want to work with them.

“We are in an economic revolution,” says Prof. Sayers. “There are so many opportunities for First Nation communities to get involved in business.”

During her appointment, which runs to April, 2013, Prof. Sayers plans to carry out research, build more relationships and, with help from students, hold a symposium this fall on aboriginal economic development.

One of her potential research topics is a review of “best practices” by First Nations and non-native companies and agencies on procurement, hiring and new ventures.

“A lot of companies are struggling with how to train First Nation people,” says Prof. Sayers. “There is a lot that needs to be done.”

An assistant professor at UVic’s Gustavson School of Business, Prof. Sayers says business schools can do more to work with First Nation communities, through training, business workshops and student co-ops and internships.

“It is finding the need and filling the gap and making it easy for First Nation communities to come in and take advantage of the expertise that is within a business school,” she says.

The national chair, established in 2005, is funded by the federal and provincial governments, Encana Corp., BC Hydro and Enbridge Inc.

Student winners

Two graduates from the University of Prince Edward Island’s School of Business placed first and second in the 2012 Estey Undergraduate Essay Competition hosted by the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Accounting Ethics. Janell MacDonald won top prize for her paper on ethical issues related to micro-finance in developing countries while Kristina MacLean received an honorable mention for her examination of ethical issues that may inhibit the professional careers of female accountants.

Follow Jennifer Lewington and Business School News by subscribing to an RSS feed here.

Contact Jennifer at jlewington@bell.net.

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