ISCAL and the universities of Coimbra and Minho are increasingly incorporating topics in the areas of sustainability and artificial intelligence into their study plans. Preparing future employees poses new challenges for higher education institutions.
There are offices where routine tasks such as data entry and processing are already automated, allowing accountants to focus on improving the quality of reports and making more value-added analytical and strategic decisions. This is evidence that artificial intelligence is beginning to redefine accounting.
Pedro Pinheiro, president of ISCAL, the oldest educational school in this field in the country, tells Jornal Económico (JE) that the current accountant cannot be merely a specialist in matters of a mainly financial and financial nature. It defines a new image: “It must increasingly assume itself as a strategic partner in guiding organizations towards sustainable and responsible practices, incorporating a deep awareness of global challenges, based on the ability to use advanced technologies to make informed decisions.”
Catching the wave of technological development, according to the ISCAL president, is crucial for accountants to remain competitive in the technology-oriented business environment. In the process, they may find “a business opportunity and repositioning within the context of the value chain.”
Therefore, AI integration is a cornerstone in preparing future accountants for the digital age. Just like the topic of sustainability, which reflects the evolving requirements of the business landscape. “Sustainability, previously considered a secondary concern, now occupies a central place in the context of the business world and must therefore necessarily feature prominently in the education and training of future professionals,” says Pedro Pinheiro. He adds that when planning the skills future accountants will develop, “a comprehensive understanding of environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles must be included, while recognizing the wider implications of financial decisions, both in the business context and in society more generally.” . general”.
To allow accountants to develop their skills on contemporary issues, ISCAL steps into the show. Pedro Pinheiro reveals that the study plans for courses in accounting and auditing will undergo a profound transformation in order to integrate topics related to sustainability and reporting. There will also be a greater focus on developing technology-based skills. ISCAL will also strengthen its offer in executive coaching through short-term programmes, developed in partnership, focusing on ESG criteria and their impact on the profession.
University of Minho
“Comprehensive understanding of accounting” – this is how the Faculty of Economics and Management of Minho University deals with this applied science. “A technical, social and ethical practice concerned with the sustainable use of resources and accountability to stakeholders in order to promote the development of organisations, people and nature,” said Ana Alexandra Caria and Lidia Oliveira, degree directors respectively, for the JE and a Master’s degree in Accounting.
Such a vision prioritizes sustainability. The topic is treated cross-sectionally in several curriculum units in the Accounting degree and in the Master’s degree of the same name. In the curriculum unit “Financial Accounting 1”, where students’ first contact with this brave new world is established, for example, “reflection on the fact that a profitable company is not always a ‘good’ company is promoted, and first trying an ‘approach to the issue of sustainability’ , explain Ana Alexandra Caria and Lidia Oliveira. Another example is an internship report. The student is challenged to present and discuss experienced practices in organizing internships that promote the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.
This academic year brings new features to the Master of Accounting: for the first time, an optional module is offered, namely Financial Reporting and Sustainability.
At the accounting level, teachers have participated in more specific seminars on applying AI in accounting teaching, and are currently, say administrators, “in the process of thinking about taking action.”
University of Coimbra
The Faculty of Economics is another Higher Education Institution (HEI) that incorporates new societal challenges into the study of accounting. “We seek to address the concept of accounting as we should see it today: a practice that is not only technical, but social and ethical, linked to the sustainable use of resources and the correct distribution of responsibilities to the parties involved, in order to let organizations flourish. People and nature,” explains Susanna George, co-coordinator of the Master’s degree in Accounting and Finance.
The University of Coimbra offers basic training in financial accounting and management accounting, within the framework of degrees in management and economics. It also offers more advanced training in these areas through its Master’s degree in Accounting and Finance, which is seeing increasing demand, according to Susannah George. Together, these training courses provide access to the profession of chartered accountant, as long as the student completes a period of systematic training in the area.
“In practice, we alert our students to the impact of accounting information on the prosperity of business and society, contributing to the optimal use of available resources,” highlights Susanna George. He adds that in the Master’s degree, the teaching of subjects related to non-financial reporting and sustainability is integrated, anticipating a practice that will become, in accordance with European regulations, mandatory and widespread in the coming years for all public and commercial organizations, regardless of your business and its size.
This academic year, the Management and Economics degrees began offering a compulsory module on ethical responsibility and sustainability. This restructuring also included the creation of study modules in several study plans, especially at UCLA linked to accounting.
“We have also introduced the use of accounting software, some of which have registered support with the Chartered Accountants Association itself,” reveals Susanna George.
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