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Perceived experiences of preparing accounting students with digital skills for the workplace: An exploratory grounded approach study at a newly formed Technological University in Ireland

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Geraldine Gorman
Publication date7/02/2024
Number of pages224
Awarding Institution
Award date7/02/2024
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Accounting education has been criticised for ill-equipping graduates for
professional employment, with calls for accounting students to have a broader
range of skills, particularly digital skills on entering the workplace. Digital skills
are an important employability skill, yet employers repeatedly state that
accounting graduates entering the workplace do not have the necessary digital
skills to carry out their roles effectively. Accounting educators in higher
education have differing views on the level of importance placed on digital skills
covered in accounting programmes. The differing views between the level of
skills employers expect and what accounting educators are covering in higher
education are currently misaligned. Although a certain degree of misalignment
is anticipated, this gap is expanding to the extent of resembling a “gaping hole”.
This study uses a grounded approach, an approach not used in previous
studies in this area, to analyse data from the most influential stakeholders in
enacting change in higher education accounting curriculums – teaching staff on
programmes. Using this approach allowed for a comprehensive answering of
the research questions where no predetermined outcomes were anticipated,
and common themes emerged from the data during the analysis process.

This study highlights the challenges of implementing digital skills in accounting
programmes, with the most influential factor in the process being the pressure
on staff to obtain professional exemptions from professional accounting bodies. Other challenges were also identified in integrating digital skills into higher
education accounting education, such as the lack of resources and institutional
support, uneven distribution of digital skills modules in course design ie front
loading modules in Year 1 of programmes, and limitations in including work
placement on programmes. It concludes that it is necessary to scrutinise the
connections between higher education institutions, professional accounting
bodies, and employers. Presently, professional accounting bodies wield
significant influence in higher education, while employers’ engagement is
lacking. This research proposes that establishing a more equitable and
organised collaboration among these three entities in a formal manner, would
enhance these relationships in the future and foster more sustainable
outcomes. This collaboration would subsequently boost flexibility and create
space for the integration of essential digital skills for accounting students who
are entering today's workforce.