University of Edinburgh Business School

The Accounting Profession

The accountancy profession is arguably the most important occupational group in contemporary economy and society. We focus on the emergence and development of the profession, and the social issues confronting it, such as social inclusion, the public interest and the role of professional bodies in society.

Professional services contribute 8% of GDP and 11.5% of employment in the UK. Professions are expected to grow rapidly in the foreseeable future as the transition from an industrial to a knowledge-based society continues. Among the most important and powerful professions in modern-day calculative economy and society is accountancy.

There are over 325,000 professional accountants in the British Isles and 2.5 million worldwide. Accountants occupy key roles in major organisations in the private and public sectors and their decisions have widespread economic and social consequences. The Big 4 multinational firms and international regulatory agencies are important participants in processes of globalisation.

Despite its success, the profession is confronted by a number of issues, particularly in the wake of the financial crisis. For example, does its members exercise power in ways consistent with the public interest? Are the institutions of the profession sufficiently sensitised to contemporary agendas of social inclusion?

Members of CAS researching The Accounting Profession are interested in themes such as:

  • Emergence and development of the accounting profession in the UK and beyond.
  • What will the accountant of the future look like and what skills sets does s/he need?
  • The shifting work jurisdiction of the professional accountant and its consequences.
  • Challenges confronting professional organisations and firms in the age of globalisation.
  • How can the profession tackle social exclusion?
  • The effectiveness of diversity agendas.
  • How can the profession improve the representation of women and ethnic minorities at partner level?
  • The emergence of new forms of social exclusion (such as age) and occupational segregation (gendered niches).
  • The shifting identity of the professional accountant.