Research carried out within The Business School on accounting ethics has made a major contribution to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) – one of the world’s premier accounting bodies.

What was the problem?

Through membership of its Ethics Standards Committee and collaboration with ICAEW staff, this research has brought a unique academic perspective to the ICAEW’s promotion of professional ethics, helping to shape its ethics agenda for over 140,000 members in over 160 countries and informing a new ethics examination for aspiring Chartered Accountants.

Benefits of this research

Building on the review of literature, focus groups involving partners and other senior professionals were held. It was found that, whilst there is a strong focus on ethics in financial reporting and auditing, especially in terms of independence and scepticism, less attention has been paid to the ethical challenges of accountants who work in other roles – who form the majority of the profession. Keeping these challenges on the agenda of professional bodies is not only vital for the profession itself but also, given the influence of accountants, for the ethics of businesses and other organisations.

What did we do?

The University of Huddersfield’s involvement with the ICAEW’s ethics agenda began with the P.D. Leake Lecture to Chartered Accountants, regulators and policy makers, delivered in 2007. The lecture was widely disseminated online throughout the ICAEW network and paved the way for the lecturer, Professor Chris Cowton, to become the first academic to be invited onto the Ethics Standards Committee.

What happened next?

The insights developed from the research have also informed the new Ethics Learning Programme (ELP), which is expected to be taken by up to 5,000 aspiring Chartered Accountants a year as a requirement for gaining professional membership. Bringing academic research about business and financial ethics into the heart of an internationally recognised professional body is helping to ensure that accountants can fulfil their professional responsibilities in an increasingly complex, dynamic and challenging business environment.

Professor Chris Cowton, Professor of Accounting since 1996 and Dean of The Business School since 2008, was awarded a prestigious DLitt (Doctor of Letters) a higher doctorate in 2013, the first to be awarded by the University of Huddersfield, in recognition of his extensive portfolio of publications, in business and financial ethics.

"I was delighted to receive the degree of DLitt, marking both a personal milestone and a small piece of University history - particularly as it was conferred by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bob Cryan, who was the first person to be awarded a Huddersfield DSc."