Accounting, Organisations and Society

Module description

Name anything that is ‘in the news’ and we can relate to how accounting, accounts and accountability are implicated within the story or headline.  For instance, we can think about recent news stories such as: BREXIT, the coronavirus, homelessness, social media, fast-fashion and the general decline in UK high-street retail, the English Premiership football league, universities, refugees, hospitals and health-care, sustainable development, climate change, and much more. These things are all shaped by, and implicated in accounting, represented in accounts, and involve complex accountability relationships.

Accounting, accounts and accountability (the 3As) constitute a significant role in organisations, and in society more generally. They thus constitute considerably more than a neutral bundle of techniques for optimal decision-making and/or externally reported information. Using leading-edge research, this module explores the multiple, complex and dynamic roles of the 3As in their broader (organisational, economic, social, political) context. Students will gain critically-oriented insight ‘beyond the numbers’ of accounting, accounts and accountability.

There will be minimal focus on the ‘technical’ aspects of accounting. Therefore, this module does not involve calculations or number-crunching. It is a good choice for students who wish to locate and understand the importance of accounting, accounts and accountability in holistic and changeable contexts. The module is not just suitable for accounting students, and prior exposure to accounting modules is by no means a mandatory pre-condition. It is, for instance, an excellent choice for tomorrow’s consultants, financially-astute business managers, political decision makers, and more. BEA3027 equips students with transferable skills that are valued by prospective employers, including knowledge of, and a capacity to critically explore, national and global issues where the 3As are paramount.

Full module specification

Module title:Accounting, Organisations and Society
Module code:BEA3027
Module level:3
Academic year:2021/2
Module lecturers:
  • Professor John Burns - Convenor
Module credit:15
ECTS value:






Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 2:


Module aims

The aim of the module is for students to become more aware of the importance of accounting, accounts and accountability (the 3As) in contemporary organisations, and society in general. The predominant view of accounting is that it is a largely technical tool that provides information to inform ‘best’ decision-making, plus underpins ‘proper’ visibility of an organisation’s activities in external accounting reports. In this module we challenge these assumptions and, in so doing, we expose the power underlining the use of accounting and accounts, as well as being particularly critical of life situations with questionable accountability processes. Throughout the module, attention will be given to moral and ethical aspects of how organisations use accounting tools, represent their performance in accounts, and deal with accountability relationships. Further focus is given to the multiple consequences from using the 3As, and the impacts this can have on the way we wish to live our lives.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. describe, compare, contrast, and critically evaluate key aspects of contemporary accounting, the use of accounts and accountability;
  • 2. evaluate alternative and broader (e.g., organisational, social, political) contexts within which accounting operates, and the common drivers of accounting change;
  • 3. critically appraise contemporary use of accounting techniques, common representations of accounts and accountability mechanisms;
  • 4. evaluate traditional and more contemporary use and misuse of accounting, accounts and accountability, and the roles of those individuals and groups who steer and control such use;
  • 5. critically evaluate and challenge alternative theoretical perspectives on accounting, accounts and accountability in their broader context;
  • 6. discuss and critically assess contemporary research on accounting, accounts and accountability.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 7. link and critically assess both research and practice-oriented perspectives on accounting, accounts and accountability;
  • 8. discuss and articulate alternative perspectives on contemporary accounting, accounts and accountability issues in their broad context;
  • 9. explain and, where necessary, rationalise such different perspectives (above) though theoretically-based arguments.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 10. select and synthesise appropriate material from a range of sources, including academic, professional and popular literature and media;
  • 11. analyse and communicate ideas, principles and evidence that support a reasoned and consistent argument.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Lectures1111 x 1hr Lectures (per week)
Tutorials99 x 1 hr per week
Guided independent study130Reading/ preparation for class and assessment

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Workshops/Tutorials – including p re-readings and/or video-links9 weeks x 1hr per week1-11Feedback via informal class discussion and curiosity-driven debate

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Coursework (Essay)302,000 words 1-11Individual feedback sheets
Exam702 hours (2 Qs from a choice of 4)1-11Generic comments via ELE

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Coursework Essay (30%)Essay, 2,000 words (30%)1-11July deadline for submission; August Examination
Exam (70%)Exam, 2 hours (70%)1-11August/September reassessment examination period

Re-assessment notes

Only students who fail the whole module will be re-assessed with an individual essay or summer examination, whichever is relevant as above.

Syllabus plan

An indicative list of topics in this module (non-exhaustive):

  • Accounting as a social, organisational and political practice
  • The changing landscape (or context) within which accounting operates
  • Accounts as a visibility tool for organisational activities, and the challenge of ‘invisibles’
  • Moral and ethical issues pertaining to (a lack of) organisational accountability
  • The inter-dependence, temporality and 'messiness' of accounting, accounts and accountability (the 3As)
  • Theories of the 3As in a broad (social, economic, organisational, political) context
  • 3As in the public sector (e.g., hospitals, universities, prisons, police, armed forces)
  • 3As in popular culture (e.g., sports, music, social media, fashion)
  • 3As in sustainable development (e.g., climate change, ecological footprints, natural capital accounting)
  • 3As in relation to the ‘vulnerable’ (e.g., homelessness, slave labour, refugees)
  • Accounting change

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Text Book & Readings

Lectures will be recorded and posted on ELE, for revision purpose; tutorials are not recorded. However, past evidence is clear that regular attendance at lectures and tutorials is strongly correlated to good performance in this module.The same applies to attendance at tutorials, including others’ group presentations. All tutorial material (including topics for group presentations) is examinable in the main exam. Please note that tutorials will not be recorded; they are compulsory, and you are expected to participate in class discussion, and take appropriate notes.

Lecture slides will be posted on ELE at least 24 hours before the relevant lecture; tutorial exercises, set-readings, etc., will also be posted on ELE.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Lectures are recorded, then posted to ELE for revision purpose. Tutorials are not usually recorded. Please note that past evidence shows very clearly that attendance at lectures and tutorials is strongly correlated to good performance in this module.

Origin date


Last revision date