Working with Universities to Strengthen the Accounting Curriculum in Jordan
Financial Management Specialist
Corporate Financial Reporting or CFR is a technical practice within the Governance Global Practice which includes a number of work-streams. Among the various streams are ensuring a sound legal and regulatory environment, promoting high quality university and technical education in the accountancy, supporting strong capacity within professional accountancy organizations, and finally enabling regulators and government entities to oversee the accounting profession. In the Middle East & North Africa (MNA), the CFR technical practice is working on several projects within these work-streams. One of the projects undertaken to ensure high quality university and technical accounting education is an assessment which was recently conducted on the academic curriculum in accountancy in Jordan. This was a project funded by the World Bank under an Institutional Development Fund (IDF), working in cooperation with the Jordan Association of Certified Public Accountants (JACPA). This assessment was an important first step in improving the curriculum and came up with a number of recommendations which will be a corner-stone of any future projects in this area.
Accounting Education in Universities
Accountancy education is one of the core pillars of good quality CFR. Education in CFR and specifically in accountancy is governed by the International Accounting Education Standards Board (IAESB) International Education Standards (IESs). IESs “assist professional accountancy organizations, regulators, employers, academics, and students by prescribing principles for the learning and development of professional accountants.”1 They seek to unify standards globally to reduce differences in the quality of accounting professionals. This assessment compared the current accounting curriculum to identify gaps and divergences that need to be bridged in order to bring the Jordanian accounting curriculum in line with IESs and good practice. Education in universities is the first important step in the gaining of knowledge by future accounting professionals. Through its IESs, the IAESB outlines the key elements of technical competence; professional skills, and professional values, ethics and attitudes that should be achieved as part of professional education to provide standards which guide implementation of high quality accounting education in countries around the world. Education is also the first step to enter the accounting profession. In Jordan, there is good perception of the accounting field with many students studying accounting. According to one authority, 19,000 students are registered currently in accounting out of 62,000 students studying business or ~30%2. After education, entry into the profession in Jordan is earned by passing the licensing exam administered by the Jordanian Association of Certified Public Accountants (JACPA). Currently, the exam results show that there is a deficiency in the accounting education with few passing the exam3. There is a clear shortage in the accounting curriculum in covering international accounting and auditing standards in addition to accounting professional ethics.
Higher Education Accreditation Commission in Jordan (HEAC)
The HEAC is the main quality regulator for higher education in Jordan. It sets and monitors the quality of programs at all institutions of higher learning, both public and private. It provides accreditation for private universities and can take away accreditation if a university is not maintaining a certain standard. For accreditation of accounting education programs, the HEAC set three basic requirements to be covered over a minimum of three years. These requirements include
(i) Maintaining a written curriculum with 132 credit hours,
(ii) certain foundation courses are to be included,
(iii) number of staff and a specific student/staff ratio4.
Objective of the Assessment
The main objective of the assessment was to come up with recommendations in order to improve the Jordanian accounting curriculum. A sample of eight universities and two community colleges were selected. A mix of private and public universities were selected with the highest numbers of accounting students. Only two community colleges were selected as all accounting curricula in community colleges is identical. The accounting curricula was reviewed for the eight universities and two community colleges and compared to the standards set by the accrediting accounting education programs in Jordanian universities and the community college standard set by the HEAC in Jordan.
Results of the Assessment
The assessment showed that in all the universities and community colleges selected, the total number of credits provided agree with the number of credit hours set by the licensing regulations. However, in terms of content and in comparison to IESs and good practice, there are many subject areas that are not included in the university education system, such as business ethics, corporate governance, or strategic decision making among others which are considered valuable for students who are considering entering the accounting profession. Other than the number of credit hours and the subjects being taught, the assessment also looked at the method of teaching. Teaching should provide a student with the tools for self-directed learning after graduation. Teaching should also focus on a broad range of teaching methods which include case studies and projects while encouraging group work and the use of technology. The assessment found that there was a deficiency in the range of teaching tools that university professors employed.
The assessment concluded with a number of recommendations where there was a gap between international good practice or the IESs and the Jordanian curriculum. The recommendations included: a) the need to focus the accounting curriculum on meeting the demands of the market, e.g. to include practical subjects as well as information technology, b) the need to create awareness among university academics of the international education standards and to include them in the curriculum, c) the importance of including business ethics in the subjects being taught; this is currently not a mandatory subject in any of the universities. Other topics which are suggested in the IESs and currently not included in the curriculum should also be added. Finally, it suggested that methods of teaching should also be expanded to include practical teaching which will give students the necessary tools to ensure success in the workplace. Bridging these gaps will require cooperation between HEAC, JACPA, and Jordanian universities and will in future allow accounting graduates to be better positioned to meet the needs of the market.
1 IAESB Fact Sheet, February 2013
2 Jordanian Accounting Education Assessment – World Bank Project – October 2013
3 Jordanian Accounting Education Assessment – World Bank Project – October 2013
4 Jordanian Accounting Education Assessment – World Bank Project – October 2013