The Master in Accountancy at the University of Malta – educating tomorrow’s accountant

The University of Malta has been running the two-year programme leading to the Master in Accountancy (MAccty) since 2012. This programme is offered both on a full-time and part-time basis. The first Masters group graduated in 2014 and currently about 80 to 100 students post-graduate each year.

The course is open to graduates who have undertaken accountancy as one of their two streams in the Bachelor of Commerce degree and attained the minimum required performance level in their study units. On the other hand, the part-time course is open to those accountants who graduated at BAccty (Hons) or BA (Accty) Hons prior to the introduction of the MAccty programme and who find the need to upgrade to the Master course. In this connection, it is important to point out that most such BAccty (Hons) or BA (Accty) Hons graduates are already accredited at Level 7 (equivalent to the level of Master), the proviso being that prior to attaining their professional degree they had also graduated at the first-degree BCom level. The part-time students join the full-time ones (normally in the afternoons) for a number of non-core study units and a dissertation/monograph. Other applicants are initially admitted to the BCom programme and given subject-for-subject exemptions for any study unit in which there is equivalence and in which they would have attained a sufficient level of performance.

The Master in Accountancy has resulted in significant changes in the University’s professional accountancy education. It was introduced after a thorough three-year exercise carried out by the Department of Accountancy with the collective support and feedback of several parties including the Rectorate, most of the Departmental staff (currently about 60 including 10 involved in both teaching and research publications), the Malta Institute of Accountants, major employers, as well as the validation of the University Programme Validation Unit and the recommendations of international accounting professors. Among other matters, this upgrade involved the introduction of:

A choice of one of several newly offered electives (beyond the warrant requirements) in response to employer demands, this including international financial reporting, public sector financial reporting, financial instruments and risk, project management and entrepreneurship. Such choice was further augmented in 2015/6 by an international taxation elective and a small entity financial reporting one – the latter by a visiting professor, Prof Robin Jarvis sponsored by the institute;

  • A new study module on financial services legislation run by the Faculty of Laws in order to cater better for Malta’s financial centre requirements;
  • A research issues study unit aimed at strengthening research methodology at this Master level;
  • A separate advanced corporate governance module run by the department itself in addition to the business ethics module run by the Faculty of Theology;
  • A separate internal auditing module in response to the internal audit’s growing significance;
  • An updated Information Technology auditing module by a leading practitioner;
  • A 20,000-25,000 dissertation with additional time specifically allotted to give students more opportunity to develop their analytical, soft and other important skills beyond those required for examination assessment;
  • A major overhaul of the examination system, this involving the removal of the final-semester examinations (such semester is now being mostly dedicated to the dissertation as already referred to) and their replacement with the European recognised credit system, wherein examinations and assignments are continuously set throughout all three preceding semesters.

One may also note that changes are currently still ongoing, such as the development this year (2016/17) of the Erasmus Exchange Programme for Year two BCom accountancy students and the opening of the Master elective study units for the external participation of warrant holders. As result of the various changes, the students’ research output has become more publishable, with some works being further co-developed, with the significant professional input of the teaching and research academics, into refereed research publications or co-presented in international accountancy-related conferences.

Since its inception in 1978, the department has insisted on a mix of theoretical, practical and applied material being taught and examined in its professional accountancy course and also for empirical research related to Malta to be carried out in the dissertations. Such a balanced mix is monitored very carefully and hopefully ameliorated from year to year, in addition to a major overhaul being effected periodically. For this purpose, the department employs a mix of academics (with both a CPA and a sound research background) and leading accountancy practitioners. Over the years, this has clearly resulted in a competing student product, particularly adept, yet not limited, for Malta as a financial services centre. Furthermore, the accumulating research material is evidently ever more rigorous: in addition to the studies of the circa 1,800 graduates to date, those of the academics themselves are resulting in research material which hopefully increasingly addresses most of the issues in our fast evolving Maltese accountancy profession both in the public and private sectors.

Finally, the department also actively participates in other departments at the Faculty of Economics, Management and Accountancy, other Faculties and Institutes as well as in several international accounting conferences and workshops. It also hosts CPE events as well as international activities in Malta, such as the forthcoming EGPA Spring Workshop on Public Sector Financial Management to be held in the Valletta University Campus next May. Further information on the courses and the Department itself may be obtained from the University of Malta website at http://www.um.edu.mt/fema/accountancy.

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