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University of Exeter Business School

Accounting, Organisations and Society

Module titleAccounting, Organisations and Society
Module codeBEA3027
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor John Burns (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


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.

Additional information:


The whole theme of management accounting and organisational control is intertwined with global practices that are used (and sometimes changed) by organisations on an international scale. Management accounting is a global phenomenon that impacts organisations far and wide, and which is overseen by international professional bodies.


Management accounting is very much at the core of sustainable development within organisations, and increasingly management accountants are becoming involved at the front-end of such practices. The interrelationship between management accounting and social and ecological sustainable development will feature at several junctures in the module programme.


Students taking this module will equip themselves with a raft of (transferable) skills in the realm of management and accounting – e.g., critical analysis skills, discussion and questioning, and knowledge of contemporary developments in the field.

Research in Teaching

This module places a significant emphasis on contemporary developments in management accounting research and is taught by two scholars who actively contribute to such developments.

Module aims - intentions of the module

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.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 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

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 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

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 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.

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

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 (Report)301500 words1-10Individual feedback sheets
Coursework (Essay)703000 words1-10Individual feedback sheets

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Coursework (report) (30%)Report 1500 words (30%)1-10August/September Reassessment examination period
Coursework (essay) (70%)Essay (3000 words) (70%)1-10August/Septe0mber reassessment examination period

Re-assessment notes

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

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Textbook & Readings:

The majority of readings will be academic journal articles – where possible, there are direct links to these articles via the module reading list which is located on the ELE site.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


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.

Key words search

Accounting, Accounts, Accountability, Values, Externalities, Organisations, Society, Moral, Ethical.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date