Accounting Administrator's Handbook: A Best Practices
Guide For Managing Innovation and Change in Accounting Programs


Managing the curriculum is a key ingredient to the success of any accounting program. In some ways it has come to represent a black box through which we try to force students and faculty to produce quality accounting graduates for the broad needs of the profession. However, in the last few years curriculum change has come to the forefront of accounting education, and this focus can be expected to continue in the foreseeable future.

This section highlights some important points related to managing curriculum change and innovation. Managing such change is a complex process and varies from institution to institution. Some of the variables include the institution's nature (private versus public), its size (large versus small), and its mission (teaching versus research). What follows are general guidelines for the administrator of an accounting program to consider in managing curriculum change and innovation.

Developing a Program for Curriculum Change

The recognition that change in accounting curricula is necessary is now accepted by most accounting program administrators. Thus, an important first step is to develop a process for curriculum change.

Develop a faculty consensus as to what level of involvement your program or school should and can play in curriculum innovation.

For example, should it assume a leadership position in this area? What aspects of curriculum change are to be undertaken (e.g., the entire curriculum, just the undergraduate or graduate portions, or just small portions of those curricula)? These decisions often depend upon the size of the faculty, resource constraints, and the mission of the accounting program, the school of business and the university. Other factors which might influence your decision in this regard are the mix of faculty (e.g., number of tenured versus non-tenured faculty, number of tenure track versus non-tenure track faculty, etc.).

If the decision is made to proceed with necessary curriculum change, undertake a process to develop and implement this change.

  • One possibility is to appoint a committee of senior and/or respected faculty to develop a change process. This committee might serve as an oversight group to manage the change process.
  • Agree upon a timetable for change and implementation.
  • Obtain prior acquiescence of the school of business and other academic units, if necessary. For example, the first year accounting course (one of the prime candidates for change) is required of all business students, and in some cases of students in other parts of the university (e.g., engineering and nursing). Consider the impact of your proposed changes on the school of business' MBA and other graduate programs.
  • To encourage faculty to commit the time necessary for quality changes, it may be necessary to review your evaluation and reward system.
  • The curriculum revision process is a long one and is often mandated by university catalogue deadlines and other factors outside your control. If you are planning to develop your own materials, the time line increases significantly.

Consider various funding possibilities.

For example, the Department of Education through its FIPSE (The Comprehensive Program Fund for the Improvement of Post-secondary Education) program provides funding for curriculum change. Private foundations, inside and outside of the accounting profession, also provide funds for curriculum change and innovation. Do not overlook your own university. Many institutions have programs to fund curriculum innovation and teaching improvement.

Take into account changes in the regulatory environment in your and neighboring states.

Although more than 75% of the states and other jurisdictions have now adopted 150 semester hour requirements, this movement is uneven and subject to the peculiarities of state regulation.

Consider all your constituencies that are affected by the change process.

Current students may feel that impending significant curriculum change negatively impacts their degree. Thus, it is important to include current and prospective students in the process at an early stage. As noted in the section on alumni, alumni are also an important group that must be considered. They can provide valuable input, as well as support for a major curriculum change project.

Fostering Curriculum Innovation 1

The need for curriculum change and revision is ongoing. An important part of this overall process is the development of policies and procedures that ensure continued curriculum change and innovation. Thus, a process of renewal needs to be created and maintained. Below are some suggestions to help you in this process.

External organizations can influence the curriculum innovation process.

The AACSB and CPA firms individually and collectively can help in the innovation process. Their documents and pronouncements add validity to the need for continual innovation. AACSB guidelines may be particularly effective in this regard as they are seen as very important by those at all levels of many universities.

University missions, goals, and policies have a pervasive influence on the policies and procedures in your program.

Perhaps, the most important of these is the university's tenure and promotion document. Also, the annual teaching evaluation process can put an emphasis on innovation, or at least not penalize those who attempt such innovation.

The way you organize and run the department or school can have an important effect on the innovation process.

As the program administrator, you control class assignments, committee assignments, and to some extent the outcomes assessment and evaluation and merit processes. For example, faculty often teach the same class over and over again. This obviously makes efficient use of the faculty by reducing class preparation time and provides some consistency in the curriculum. However, it may tend to stifle curriculum and teaching innovation. Different instructors bring different perspectives to a class, and a new preparation often forces an instructor to consider new approaches to a course. Thus, in order to institutionalize this process consider establishing a policy that encourages the periodic rotation of faculty teaching responsibilities.


Curriculum change and innovation is an extremely important part of a university's mission. It is one, however, that has been overlooked in the past. Because of the tremendous changes taking place in the accounting profession, the need for curriculum change and innovation is taking on new and substantial importance. Managing such a process will become, therefore, an increasingly important part of your job as an accounting administrator.

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