Recent Changes in the Master in Accountancy Course of the University of Malta
As many accountants will be aware, the University of Malta has been running a professional accountancy course since 1978. Over the years, this course has witnessed an ever increasing demand by students, and it has proven to be very popular among employers. In my view, one main reason for this is that, beyond covering the minimum academic requirements for students to attain the CPA warrant, it consistently included additional features, such as a dissertation requirement in the final year of the course, and the taking up earlier on (at Bachelor of Commerce level) of another stream besides accountancy – currently out of economics, management, marketing, public policy, banking or insurance – such inclusions providing students with an opportunity to begin to specialise.
In addition to this, in 2012, the University restructured its Bachelor of Accountancy (Hons) course, upgrading it to a Master in Accountancy. A previous article in this Journal (Autumn 2016: 52-54) has already explained in detail the significant changes this upgrade brought to this mainstream course in the Maltese professional accountancy education.
Among other changes, the course introduced the choice of one elective study unit – out of international taxation, international financial reporting, public sector financial reporting, financial instruments and risk, project management and entrepreneurship and small entity financial reporting – to provide an even bigger opportunity to students to branch out into more specialist areas. Furthermore, new modules were introduced or strengthened: these included modules in corporate governance, internal auditing, IT auditing, financial services legislation and research methodology.
The result over the past six years has been that of rendering the course even more in demand (currently having about 100 postgraduates in each year) despite its rigorous entry requirements: a 65% minimum average pass in key study units at B Com level.
Further refinements to the Masters in Accountancy have just been launched in the current (2018/19) academic year.
The main ones are the following:
- For students to have more time and to develop more skill in selecting their dissertation theme, the advanced research methodology course (Research Issues in Accountancy) has been relocated from the second semester to the first semester of the first year of the course.
- On the other hand, the elective study units referred to above have been relocated from the first to the final year, so as to enable students to have more time to decide on their choice of specialist elective topic. This change, together with the preceding one, is also aimed at students possibly aligning their choice of elective with their dissertation area.
- A number of study units have been rearranged in such a way as to bring more balance in study workload throughout the four-semester course. This involves both the timing of such units and their examination. At the same time, the fourth (and final) semester has been retained solely for the writing up of the dissertation and for a contemporary issues course, this enabling students also to meet and discuss current issues with experts/specialists (e.g. visiting professors, practitioners) in the accountancy and related professions just prior to entering the market as graduate accountants.
In the meantime, the Department has continued to encourage the upgrading of the competencies of its academic staff, requiring all its full-timers to attain both a Ph.D. in an area of accountancy and a CPA warrant. This, together with the input of around 50 part-time specialist accounting practitioners, ensures that the right balance between theory and practice continues to be inputted in the teaching of this professional course. Publications in peered-reviewed journals by members of the academic staff are also on the increase, and it is planned that the Department will be in a position to open up also for Ph.D. courses in accountancy within the next five years.
One finally notes that:
- Accountant woman returners are being given (and some have already taken) the opportunity to attend, without subjecting themselves to any assessment, two of the indicated advanced major accountancy study units in the Master in Accountancy course so that they may catch up with their Continuing Professional Education hours missed during their years of absence from accountancy-related work.
- As from the academic year 2018/19, at the request of both the Accountancy Board and the Malta Institute of Accountants, the Department of Accountancy has made available the relevant Master in Accountancy study units for those who have already graduated in other non-University accountancy professional courses, but who have as yet missing Maltese Law and/or Maltese Taxation for them to attain their CPA warrant. Such applicants are required to sit for the relevant examinations.
- Each of the electives referred to earlier is now also open for Maltese Certified Public Accountant warrant holders who want to attend for them to fulfil their Continued Professional Education requirements. In this case participants are not required to sit for any assessment but to attend regularly.
Applications for any of the above are normally done each summer and for the following academic year. For further enquiries, one may also contact the Department of Accountancy on 2340 3357/2700.