Accounting, Organisations and Society

Module description

Name anything that’s topical in the ‘real world’ and I will show you the (management) accounting within it! For instance, think of: austerity, ‘Premiership’ football, You-Tube vloggers, the financial crisis, universities, refugees, health-care, and sustainable development – they 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 (social, political, economic) context. Drawing considerably on theoretically-informed case studies of management 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, 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 ‘management accounting’ modules is helpful, it is by no means a mandatory requirement. This module is a must-take (optional) module for tomorrow’s rounded 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:2017/8
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 of contemporary (and mostly management) 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. A significant amount of cutting-edge research will be covered, including case studies and popularly-used theories of accounting 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 and accountability. 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 management accounting.
  • 2. evaluate alternative (e.g., social, political, economic) contexts within which management 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 management accountants.
  • 5. critically evaluate and challenge alternative theoretical perspectives on (management) accounting in its broad context.
  • 6. discuss and critically assess contemporary research on management accounting practices.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 7. link and critically assess both research-oriented and practice-oriented perspectives of contemporary management 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
Lectures2211 x 2hr Lectures (per week)
Workshop/tutorials99 x 1hr W/T (per week)
Guided independent study (1)101Reading
Guided independent study (2)18Prepare for class (Questions set)

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Workshop/tutorials exercises9 x 1hr (per week)1-11Feedback 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
Individual Essay301,500 words1-11Individual feedback sheets, and generic comments via ELE
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
Individual essay 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. Management accounting as a social, organisational practice
  2. The changing social and organisational landscape of management accounting
  3. Accountants’ roles in tomorrow’s organisations: score-keepers or consultants?
  4. Theories of management accounting in its social, organisational context
  5. Contemporary developments in ‘new’ public sector management 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. Management accounting change
  12. Innovations and future developments in management 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 management 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 reading list which is located on the ELE site.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Other Resources

All lectures will be recorded for revision and back-up purpose; however, you are strongly encouraged to still attend all lectures. Workshops/tutorials will not be recorded, and you are all expected to both participate in class discussion, as well as take notes. The latter are compulsory, and registers may be taken.

Lecture slides will be posted on ELE at least 24 hours before the relevant lecture; workshop/tutorial exercises and tasks will also be posted on ELE (but not solutions).

The ELE site for this module will also include various other things – e.g., a comprehensive reading list, with direct links to assigned readings; also interesting and relevant web-links.

Origin date


Last revision date