The accounting profession and education : the development of disengaged scholarly activity in accounting in South Africa

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Abstract: Purpose - This paper examines how the actions of the accounting profession, the state, universities and accounting academics have inhibited the development of South African accounting research. Design/methodology/approach - A multiple history approach of traditional archival material and oral history is used. Findings - Since the late nineteenth century, a network of human and non-human (including regulation and transformation) ‘actants’ ensured that accounting education retained a technical focus. By prescribing and detailing the accounting syllabi required for accreditation, the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants and its predecessors exercise direct control over accounting education. While the professional body claims to support accounting research, this is conditional on it meeting the professional body’s particular view of scholarship. Research limitations/implications – The limitations associated with this research is that it focuses on one particular professional body in one jurisdiction. However, the South African situation provides a cautionary tale of how universities, particularly those in developing countries, should take care not to abdicate their responsibilities for setting of syllabi or course content to professional bodies. Accounting academics, particularly those in a developing country that is experiencing major social, political and economic problems, are in a prime position to engage in research that will benefit society as a whole. Originality – Although Actor Network Theory has been widely used in accounting research and in particular to explain accounting knowledge creation the use of this particular theoretical lens to examine the construction of professional knowledge is limited. This study draws on Callon’s (1986) four moments to explain how various human actors including: the accounting profession; the state; universities; accounting academics, and non-human actors including: accreditation; regulation; and transformation, have brought about South African academic disengagement with the discipline.