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Ethics Education in the Qualification of Professional Accountants: Insights from Australia and New Zealand


  • Andrew West

    () (Queensland University of Technology)

  • Sherrena Buckby

    () (Queensland University of Technology)


This paper investigates how ethics is incorporated in the qualification process for prospective professional accountants across Australia and New Zealand. It does so by examining the structure of these qualification processes and by analysing the learning objectives and summarised content for ethics courses that prospective accountants take either at university or through the post-degree programs provided by CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. We do this to understand how the ‘sandwich’ approach to teaching ethics (Armstrong, Journal of Accounting Education 11(1):77–92, 1993) is implemented. This approach advocates a standalone ethics course, followed by ethical cases that are integrated across accounting courses, and subsequently a capstone course that combines ethics and professionalism. We test the extent to which this approach is adopted and examine how its application relates to the components of moral behaviour (Rest, Moral development: Advances in research and theory, Praeger Publishers, New York, 1986). The results provide three significant contributions. The first is that the ‘sandwich’ approach is not in place for most prospective accountants as only a minority of programs include a mandatory course with a substantial ethics component, and this is more likely in undergraduate rather than postgraduate programs. The second contribution is that although moral sensitivity and moral judgement are widely considered, little attention is given to issues of moral motivation and moral character. We suggest that change is unlikely without explicit ethical education requirements from the professional accounting bodies. The paper also makes a final contribution by proposing a more nuanced typology characterising the degree to which ethics is incorporated in particular courses.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew West & Sherrena Buckby, 2020. "Ethics Education in the Qualification of Professional Accountants: Insights from Australia and New Zealand," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 164(1), pages 61-80, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:164:y:2020:i:1:d:10.1007_s10551-018-4064-2
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-018-4064-2

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ann Dzuranin & Rebecca Shortridge & Pamela Smith, 2013. "Building Ethical Leaders: A Way to Integrate and Assess Ethics Education," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 115(1), pages 101-114, June.
    2. Dann Fisher & Diane Swanson & Jaime Schmidt, 2007. "Accounting Education Lags CPE Ethics Requirements: Implications for the Profession and a Call to Action," Accounting Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(4), pages 345-363.
    3. Adriaan Taylor, 2013. "Ethics training for accountants: does it add up?," Meditari Accountancy Research, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 21(2), pages 161-177, November.
    4. Barry Cooper & Philomena Leung & Steven Dellaportas & Beverley Jackling & Grace Wong, 2008. "Ethics Education for Accounting Students—a Toolkit Approach," Accounting Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(4), pages 405-430.
    5. Steven Dellaportas & Sutharson Kanapathippillai & Arifur Khan & Philomena Leung, 2014. "Ethics Education in the Australian Accounting Curriculum: A Longitudinal Study Examining Barriers and Enablers," Accounting Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(4), pages 362-382, August.
    6. Nonna Martinov-Bennie & Rosina Mladenovic, 2015. "Investigation of the Impact of an Ethical Framework and an Integrated Ethics Education on Accounting Students’ Ethical Sensitivity and Judgment," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 127(1), pages 189-203, March.
    7. Jana Craft, 2013. "A Review of the Empirical Ethical Decision-Making Literature: 2004–2011," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 117(2), pages 221-259, October.
    8. Andrew West, 2017. "The ethics of professional accountants: an Aristotelian perspective," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 30(2), pages 328-351, February.
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