A framework for the integration of information technology in the education of professional accountants at South African universities
Wessels, Philippus Lodewikus
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ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The accountancy profession operates within an environment that is changing at a rapid pace. It is the responsibility of the profession to ensure that all its members (including future members) meet the expectations placed on them by the users of their services. Professional accountants need to stay relevant in this changing environment that may require them to change or adapt the services they offer to their clients. It is the responsibility of professional accountancy bodies to strategically plan for these changes to ensure that members that join the profession posses the required knowledge and skills to be relevant and to stay relevant within the environment they operate in. One of the key drivers of change in the environment has been identified as the advances in information and communication technologies. Information and communication technologies have an impact on the role that accountants play in the environment (i.e. what they do) as well as on how they perform their role (i.e. how they do it). The main aim of this research was to determine if, and to what extent, students, that have completed their formal education and enter the profession as trainee accountants, possess the knowledge and skills to enable them to interact with and use information technology to be regarded as competent accountants within the South African business environment. Accountants are educated in South Africa at universities that offer programmes that have been accredited by a professional accountancy body as well as through practical training offered by training organisations. During this education process, accountants are imparted with the knowledge and skills as prescribed by the professional accountancy body so that they can join the profession as competent accountants. This research showed that there are serious shortcomings in the formal education of students regarding information technology that results in students entering the profession as trainee accountants not being competent in using information technology. The reasons for students not being competent in information technology are: • the lack of clear guidance on the IT skills required of students completing their formal education because of professional accountancy bodies setting IT syllabi that are too vague and/or concise; • ignorance of the demands on trainee accountants as to the IT skills they require to be competent in the South African business environment; and • the lack of proper IT training offered by South African universities that deliver trainee accountants that possess a limited range of IT skills that may not be relevant to the environment students will function in. Through a survey the perceptions of role-players at South African universities on the strategies that universities would have to employ to ensure that the students they deliver to profession, acquire the relevant IT skills to be competent in the use of information technology, were determined.