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Marcia Annisette, director of the Master of Accounting program at York University’s Schulich School of Business.

York University

The Globe's weekly business-school news roundup.

Accountants get a bad rap: in the movies they are portrayed as humourless individuals with a narrow interest in numbers.

But that's not who York University's Schulich School of Business has in mind for its new Master of Accounting to be offered in May, 2013.

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For the 12-month program, the latest in a growing roster of specialty degrees, Schulich hopes to attract those with an undergraduate liberal arts or science honours degree interested in a career in accounting. No work experience is required for entry.

"The typical accountant I encountered in my early career would not have had a business degree," says Marcia Annisette, director of the Master of Accounting program, reflecting on her early professional career as an accountant in Trinidad and England. "I personally found them the most interesting and the most knowledgeable."

She assumes that about 90 per cent of applicants will have a liberal arts education, such as environmental studies or literature, enabling them to bring diverse perspectives to decision-making.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, corporate scandals and the Occupy Movement, Dr. Annisette sees "an appetite out there for a different kind of business professional," one with broad interests, a sense of curiosity and an ability to think abstractly. Ultimately, she adds, business leaders need to incorporate multiple factors, not just the numbers, in decisions.

Despite their generalist background, prospective students will not need remedial math, she believes.

"There is a big myth that accounting is highly mathematical," she says. "Accounting is far more conceptual."

In the final four months of the program, students will choose between two options – one that leads to accreditation as a chartered accountant and the other, in accounting information, for those interested in a career in management.

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About 10 students are expected for the first cohort next spring, with a maximum intake of 25 over time.

Talent pool

As business schools diversify their program offerings, they are casting their nets wider to seek out top-notch MBA students.

In Canada and the United States, a growing number of schools now offer the option to submit scores from the Graduate Record Examinations, required for a variety of graduate-school programs, in addition to the Graduate Management Admission Test, the dominant player in MBA entrance exams.

But despite increased flexibility by schools, students appear to be sticking with the GMAT for now, according to a new survey released by Kaplan Test Prep, which sells entrance test preparation for the MBA.

In a fall phone survey of business school admission officers responsible for 265 MBA programs (including 19 from Canada), 69 per cent of respondents say they now offer prospective students the option to submit scores from GRE instead of GMAT, up from 24 per cent in 2009. But about half of schools say fewer than one in 10 applicants submitted a GRE score in the past admissions cycle.

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The findings are consistent with the experience at Canadian schools.

At the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, which accepted the GRE in 2010, officials report less than 10 per cent of applicants make use of an alternative to the GMAT.

"We thought it might open up the pool of candidates to a wider group and make it easier for them to consider applying to us," says Rotman admissions director Niki da Silva. "In reality, we haven't seen that yet because the volume is so low."

She says the low uptake is a signal for recruiters to reach out earlier to prospective candidates, especially those from diverse educational backgrounds, who are looking at graduate studies options beyond the classic MBA. In this scenario, potential candidates would only have to take one test, the GRE.

"From our perspective, we hope we can get a bigger pool of candidates and more applications," she says.

The same holds true at John Molson School of Business at Concordia University, which first permitted prospective MBA candidates to submit GRE scores last year. By offering the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT, Molson hopes to further diversify its intake of students, including their educational background and home country.

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"It is such a competitive environment – almost all schools have an MBA – so to get the best candidates we have to change our mindset a little bit," says Cynthia Law, manager of graduate admissions at Molson.

Consistent with the Kaplan survey, Molson has received few applications with GRE scores.

One survey finding may explain student reluctance to move away from the GMAT. While 69 per cent of responding business schools said scores from both tests are treated equally, 29 per cent said they gave preference to applicants with GMAT scores.

In the running

Johanne Brunet, an associate professor of marketing at HEC Montréal, has been added to the list of 15 global scholars competing for top honours in the Economist Intelligence Unit's competition for 2013 Business Professor of the Year. She joins Darren Dahl, senior associate dean of faculty and research at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, as the only Canadians on the list.

The winner is named after a live "teach-off" in London next March.

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

Contact Jennifer at jlewington@bell.net.

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