Accounting as a discipline must evolve to remain relevant in higher education. Its evolution must be more than a reorganization of existing courses. Minor changes, many of which are reflected in the AICPA CPA Evolution Project, may prolong the life of accounting as a specialty in its own right, but it is not enough. This will help the departments get through the next registration period, but they will eventually be forced to close their doors. Students are already abandoning their majors in favor of more profitable ones.
Accounting departments cannot count on re-engaging these students by repackaging majors and selling the same product with more buzzwords or new courses. Like a conglomerate that has become too big to manage its lines of business, accounting as an independent business must be unbundled and refocused on academic competitors if it is to be saved from extinction. Much of the core accounting curriculum should remain, but the accounting department itself should be abolished and reorganized predominantly into finance and information systems departments. In the author’s opinion, this approach will unlock the value of the rapidly evolving accounting roles that accounting firms and future employers expect from graduates.
AICPA, seeing the decline in CPAs, launched the CPA Evolution Project to modernize professional certification and refocus the university curriculum. The AICPA has provided colleges and universities with a roadmap to reorganize their accounting departments over the next decade. It is noteworthy that the Evolution project shows quality when it becomes accounting and downplays the skills that come with assessing the state of accounting (eg preparation of accounting records, taxes, manual control). The Evolution project forms the backbone of accounting, surveillance, auditing and technology, and combines it with broad specializations in either tax law determination and planning, business analysis and valuation, or information systems and control. In this author’s view, this paves the way for a reorganization of accounting into specialties where its content fits in neatly and provides supportive knowledge and skills. Financial reporting preparation and tax concentration should be reorganized into units of collegiate financial departments. The concentration of audit and accounting information systems should be easily absorbed by university information technology departments. Students will then be able to continue their specialization in their field, as envisaged by the Evolution project, albeit in departments other than accounting.