The American Institute of CPAs and the American Accounting Association released a report Tuesday charting a course for the future of accounting education.

The Pathways Commission on Accounting Higher Education was created in 2010 by the two organizations to study the future structure of higher education for the accounting profession and develop recommendations on educational pathways for students, academics, practitioners and others.

Commission participants, including accounting practitioners and educators, sought input from a variety of stakeholders over the past 18 months to investigate ways to enhance the opportunities and relevance of the accounting education experience.

The Pathways Commission report includes a number of recommendations, including building a “learned profession for the future by purposeful integration of accounting research, education, and practice for students, accounting practitioners, and educators.” The report also recommends developing “mechanisms to meet future demand for faculty by unlocking doctoral education via flexible pedagogies in existing programs and by exploring alternative pathways to terminal degrees that align with institutional missions and accounting education and research goals.”

Other recommendations include reforming “accounting education so that teaching is respected and rewarded as a critical component in achieving each institution’s mission.”

The commission also recommends developing “curriculum models, engaging learning resources, and mechanisms for easily sharing them as well as enhancing faculty development opportunities in support of sustaining a robust curriculum.” It suggests ways to “improve the ability to attract high-potential, diverse entrants into the profession,” and recommends the creation of “mechanisms for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information about the current and future markets for accounting professionals and accounting faculty.”

The impetus for the study came from the Treasury Department’s 2008 Advisory Committee on the Auditing Profession report, which recommended that the AAA and AICPA study the possible future structure of higher education for the accounting profession.

The two groups said they are “proud of the significant breadth and quality of effort, input, and output contained in the report and for the level of volunteer commitment of so many individuals and organizations. In particular, we wish to recognize the leadership of the Commission Chair, Bruce Behn, Ergen Professor at the University of Tennessee.”

With a mission of considering accounting education and the accounting profession in the broadest sense, the Pathways Commission’s recommendations are expansive in scope, demonstrating the need to address difficult and persistent issues and impediments so that the discipline and profession of accounting can better meet the challenges and opportunities of the future. The AAA and the AICPA said they endorse the recommendations included in the Pathways Commission report and are committed to supporting the ongoing implementation structure and activities necessary to encourage study, testing and adoption of these recommendations in a variety of settings. 

A number of recommendations in the Commission’s report echo those made in earlier studies with related purposes.  “While previous studies have resulted in some successful new directions and promising innovations, past efforts at renewal have lacked an explicit implementation strategy and structure to move their recommendations forward on a systematic and properly resourced basis,” said the two groups. “To overcome the limitations of periodic efforts, continued joint efforts will be necessary for successful implementation of the recommendations in this report.”

The AAA and the AICPA plan to continue their support of the Pathways Commission as founding members for the next three years. Bill Ezzell, a former partner with Deloitte, LLP and past chairman of the AICPA board of directors, and Mark Higgins, the Dean and Alfred J. Verrecchia and Hasbro Inc. Leadership Chair in Business at the University of Rhode Island and a past president of the American Taxation Association, have agreed to co-chair the implementation effort. They are finalizing the structure to enable a broad stakeholder group to conduct the implementation phase.

The Pathways Commission plans to continue sharing its ideas and progress in a publicly available forum at

The full report is available at

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