When asked by AccountantsDaily, 'Are accounting degrees losing relevance as technology reshapes the industry?', 32.7 per cent of the 153 respondents agreed with the statement, bringing into question the continuing development of accountancy education.
Commenting on the results, Louise Pope, director of Aequalis Consulting, stressed that the nature of accounting and the work undertaken by the profession will undergo a “dramatic change” in the years ahead.
“Given the rate of change of technology, preparation for dealing with this disruption might begin with changes to the existing education system,” she said.
Ms Pope identified two trends that will dramatically alter the existing profession and subsequently the skills and education of accountants themselves: cloud-based services and the emergence of 'big data'.
“The technical ability to take all this data and analyse in real time creates new software technologies and analytics software; these machine-learning solutions fall under the loose heading of artificial intelligence, which is a significant trend in its own right,” said Ms Pope.
“Topping the list of skills expected to be more in demand will be enterprise risk management, which aims to manage risks by taking an integrated view of all the various uncertainties that exist across an organisation,” she added.
Ms Pope stressed that the emergence of new technologies has always forced the accounting profession to evolve – ever since the invention of the abacus.
“Although we didn’t call it technology back then, we can go back centuries with several attempts to build adding machines to help an accountant with mathematical solutions,” she explained.
“Accountants are a smart bunch, and will continue to thrive no matter what the changes,” she added.
David Cawley, regional director of Hays Accountancy and Finance, said that all degrees and relevant qualifications will eventually need to evolve with the demands of professions and an evolving working world.
“Graduate accountants need to be digitally literate, and therefore as technology continues to evolve, all degrees will need continual review,” he said.
Mr Cawley added that current employers continue to seek degree-qualified accountants, and that accounting degrees continue to hold their own.
“We don’t see this changing in the near future,” he said.