Accounting, Organisations and Society

Module description

Name anything that is topical in the real world and I will show you the accounting within it!  For instance, think of: governments' cuts in public funding, 'English Premiership’ football, You-Tube vloggers, the financial crisis, universities, refugees, health-care, sustainable development, and much more.  These things are all impacted by, and implicated in an organisation’s accounting practices.  Importantly, accounting constitutes a far more significant role in organisations, and in society more generally, than simply a ‘neutral’ bundle of tools and techniques that informs ‘best’ decisions of managers.  This module, influenced by contemporary and leading-edge research, explores the multiple, complex and dynamic role of accounting practices in their wider (e.g. organisational, social, political) context.  Drawing considerably on theoretically-informed case studies of accounting in practice, this module will both illuminate and explicate how, for example, accounting can represent a stabilising and routine mechanism in day-to-day organisational life; or a means of communication and visibility across different organisational areas; a powerful metric which can define success and/or failure in organisational performance; an enabler and/or constraint for organisational change; and much more.  This module is especially relevant for those students who wish to place accounting in its broader, but changeable and often unpredictable context.  It is an optional module for all business school UG programmes, with no essential pre-requisites or co-requisite modules.  Though some prior exposure to '(especially management) accounting’ modules is helpful, it is by no means a mandatory requirement.  This module is a good choice for tomorrow’s rounded business manager – i.e., nurturing an accounting acumen but consolidated with critical assessment of real-life scenarios.

Full module specification

Module title:Accounting, Organisations and Society
Module code:BEA3027
Module level:3
Academic year:2018/9
Module lecturers:
  • Professor John Burns - Convenor
Module credit:15
ECTS value:






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


Module aims

Broadly speaking, the module engages students with the changing nature and roles of contemporary accounting practices, as well as roles for tomorrow’s accountants. It thus builds on, and complements, more technically-oriented accounting knowledge gained in years I to III. Cutting-edge research will be covered, including case studies and popularly-used theories of accounting in practice.  Throughout this module, you will be encouraged to be inquisitive and critical of contemporary developments, grounded in guided wider reading, and also to conjecture towards potential future developments in the complex and changeable landscape of accounting, accountability and 'accounts'.  This module is a sensible option for those students who wish to engage in a broad accounting-related career but, given its strong interface with the management field, the module is also a good choice for students who wish to pursue careers in more general business management roles, leadership and/or consultancy.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. describe, compare, contrast, and critically evaluate key aspects of contemporary accounting.
  • 2. evaluate alternative (eg. organisational, social, political) contexts within which accounting operates, and the common drivers of change in such practice.
  • 3. critically appraise various contemporary (management) accounting techniques and their interface with other organisational systems and techniques.
  • 4. evaluate traditional and more contemporary ‘consultancy’ roles of accountants.
  • 5. critically evaluate and challenge alternative theoretical perspectives on accounting in its broad context.
  • 6. discuss and critically assess contemporary research on accounting practices.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 7. link and critically assess both research-oriented and practice-oriented perspectives of contemporary accounting practice.
  • 8. discuss and articulate different perspectives on contemporary accounting issues in their broadest 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 (both academic and popular).
  • 11. analyse, communicate and present 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)
Workshop/tutorials189 x 2/wk x 1hr
Independent study (1)5Group Presentation - preparation
independent study (2)10Group Executive Report - writing
Guided indenpendent study106Reading/ preparation for class

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
tWorkshops/Tutorials/Small groups – discussion, debate9wks x 2/wk x 1hr1-11Feedback via class discussion, including questions set

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
Group Presentation1515 mins (max) presentation1-11Verbal feedback in class; followed by group feedback sheets (also covering Exec Report)
Group Executive Report151000 words (max)1-11Feedback sheets (also covering group presentations)
Exam702 hours, comprising 2 essays from a choice of 41-11Generic 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
Group presentation, Group Executive Report and ExamExam only (100%); 2 hours, comprising 2 essays from a choice of 41-11August Examination Period

Syllabus plan

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

  1. Accounting as a social, organisational practice
  2. The changing social and organisational landscape of accounting
  3. Accountants’ roles in tomorrow’s organisations: score-keepers or consultants?
  4. Theories of accounting in its social, organisational context
  5. Contemporary developments in ‘new’ public sector accounting
  6. Management control in the 21st century – theory and practice
  7. Cost management in the 21st century – theory and practice
  8. Performance management in the 21st century – theory and practice
  9. Accounting for strategic management in the 21st century – theory and practice
  10. Sustainable development and accountability – challenges for the future
  11. Managing accounting change
  12. Innovations and future developments in accounting

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Text Book & Readings

The recommended textbook for this module, to which numerous references will be made in both lectures and workshops/tutorials, is:

• Burns, J., Quinn, M., Warren, L. and Oliveira, J. (2013) Management Accounting, London: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.  [ISBN 13 9780077121617]

Note: the recommended textbook also has a blog, to which examples and cases of ‘everyday applications of accounting’ are posted every two weeks.  You are advised to keep a track of these blog posts, but also scour its archives, see:

Other readings: The majority of additional readings will be academic journal articles.  Where possible, there will be direct links to these articles via the module ELE site.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Other Resources

Some lectures will be recorded (subject to change), for revision purpose.  Past evidence is clear, however, that attendance at lectures will, in the majority of cases, contribute towards higher marks in exams, presentations and reports.  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 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 (but no ‘solutions’ will be provided on ELE).

The ELE site for this module will also include various other things – e.g., appropriate reading/articles (including, where possible, a pdf copy), and interesting, relevant web-links.

Origin date


Last revision date