Accounting education at higher education institutions is influenced by various role
players, each with their own expectations. Educators involved in accounting
education are therefore required to balance the demands of higher education with
those of the professional body that will accredit their students, while still delivering
market-ready graduates fully equipped with the competencies employers expect,
namely professional skills, technical knowledge and attributes such as values,
ethics and professional attitudes.
The importance of professional skills and technical knowledge to the accounting
profession, as well as the degree of exposure graduates are expected to have
received at university level, is known, but the specific levels of capability and
competence expected of graduates have not yet been quantitatively determined.
As a result of this unknown level of capability that the accounting profession
expects of its newly employed graduates, the size of the expectation-performance
gap has also remained largely unknown. Although earlier research has indicated
that graduates' actual capabilities with regard to professional skills and technical
knowledge did not meet the expectations of accounting practitioners at the
beginning of their traineeships, the extent of the expectation-performance gap
worldwide, and in South Africa, has not yet been quantitatively determined.
The objective of this dissertation, in a research paper format, are to determine the
expectation-performance gap firstly, by quantifying the levels of professional skills
and technical auditing and assurance knowledge capability audit managers expect
of newly employed first year trainee accountants, and secondly by determining
whether the professional skills and technical auditing and assurance knowledge
actually displayed by the newly employed first year trainee accountants meet the
expectations of the audit managers. First year trainee accountants in the first three
months of their training contracts will be referred to as newly employed first year
trainee accountants for the remainder of the dissertation. The findings indicate that audit managers expect newly employed first year trainee
accountants to be capable of demonstrating seven of the 22 individual professional
skills, with minimal or without supervision, whilst their expectations regarding these
newly employed first year trainee accountants' performance of technical audit and
assurance tasks in the first three months of their training contracts are lower. Audit
managers do not expect newly employed first year trainee accountants to be
capable of performing any of the 12 identified technical audit and assurance tasks
without or even with only limited supervision.
The findings further show clearly that audit managers' expectations are not being
met, as there were material expectation-performance gaps for all of the 22
individual professional skills being investigated, as well as for all 12 researched
audit and assurance tasks. The sizes of the expectation-performance gaps for the
professional skills being investigated varied between 37.9% (for newly employed
first year trainee accountants' abilities to take responsibility for their own
development) and 9.4% (for newly employed first year trainee accountants' abilities
to display honesty and integrity). The audit and assurance task with the largest
difference was the task requiring newly employed first year trainee accountants to
consider and document the need to use computer assisted audit techniques to
gather audit evidence (performance was 28.9% less than audit managers'
expectations), and the technical task showing the smallest expectationperformance
gap was that where newly employed first year trainee accountants
were required to determine sample sizes and methods of selection to obtain
sufficient testing for the performance of tests of controls or the design and
implementation of controls (performance was 14.6% less than audit managers'
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2016.