SAAA/IAAER 2015 Biennial Conference held in East London at the ICC
“Closing the GAP: Our role as accounting educators”. The Southern African Accounting Association (SAAA) and International Association for Accounting Education & Research (IAAER) hosted their Biennial Conference in East London from 29 June to 1 July 2015. Professor Lana Hanner Weldon from the Nkuhlu Accounting Department at UFH was the president of SAAA and the convenor of the conference. This was the third consecutive conference at which IAAER and SAAA worked together and gathered the largest assembly of accountancy academics in South Africa.
Three hundred national and international delegates attended the conference. Seventy nine papers were presented by both local and international academics. Papers were presented in five subject areas: management accounting and finance, accounting, auditing, taxation and accounting education. The overall best paper award went to Jonathan Dillon and Carlos Correia for their paper entitled: “A refined constructive operating lease capitalisation model considering proposed lease accounting rules”.
The theme of the conference was ‘Closing the GAP: Our role as accounting educators’. Keynote speaker, Raymond de Villiers from Tomorrow Today, identified some of these gaps in his enlightening address on the various generations and their habits; he focussed on Generations y and z, our present and future students.
GAPs that influence the interaction between accountancy educators and students such as age, language, culture and technology were addressed in the first panel discussion. Panel member and recent UFH accounting graduate, Lazola Cebe received the greatest applause when she encouraged graduates and educators to lift their eyes and look further than the horizon, that “our degrees empower us to become accountants anywhere in the world and that the skills and abilities we gained are not limited in their application to South African towns or cities only.”
The GAP between the expectations of employers and the quality of graduates produced by universities was analysed by the second panel made up of members from professional bodies and employers (CIMA, KPMG, MBSA, AG and SAICA). The consensus was that graduates have the requisite technical knowledge but struggle with practical application in the work place. The Deputy AG saw it as “critical that we find a way to bring public sector into the graduate program”. Mrs Olivier from SAICA said that “there is a gap, there has always been a gap and there will be a gap in the future. How big the gap is makes all the difference and we need to close it.” The chair asked the panel whether their expectations were too high but the panel agreed with each other that they were not. The panel suggested that the following could assist universities in closing the gap: professional bodies taking the lead; FASSET providing assistance and employers being used more effectively by asking them the right questions.
The IAAER ran a Paper Development Workshop concurrently with the first day of the SAAA conference. This was facilitated and organized by Prof Donna Street, Director of Research and Educational Activities of the IAAER, while Prof Elmar Venter of the University of Pretoria assisted with the South African logistics. Each participant submitted a ten page proposal on their current research and were fortunate to have two international academics acting as mentors and providing constructive feedback on each paper. Each participant presented their paper and received additional comments from the mentors to improve their paper.
UFH made a significant contribution to the conference with not only the chairperson of the SAAA being one of our own (Prof Hanner Weldon), but Denny Emslie and Prof Sean Weldon were also members of the organising committee. Four of the Accounting department lecturers presented papers: Ntombi Mnconywa, Lisa Hirschbeck, Wendy Terblanche and Daylan Staude. Most of the other academics in the department were also fortunate enough to be able to attend.
Accounting research is relatively young in South Africa and the Nkuhlu Accounting Department at UFH, along with those representing other South African tertiary education institutions at the conference, benefitted from networking with peers, establishing new contacts and sharing information, experiences and challenges.