Accounting Education and the Profession in New Zealand: Profiles of the Pioneering Academics and the Early University Accounting Departments 1900‐1970

Alan Robb (Christchurch, New Zealand)

Pacific Accounting Review

ISSN: 0114-0582

Article publication date: 13 September 2011



Robb, A. (2011), "Accounting Education and the Profession in New Zealand: Profiles of the Pioneering Academics and the Early University Accounting Departments 1900‐1970", Pacific Accounting Review, Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 211-212.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This small volume, 98 pages, provides a fascinating and comprehensive portrait of accounting academe in New Zealand over seven decades.

Both Don Trow and Steve Zeff are well‐known accounting academics. Zeff has a reputation without parallel for top class historical writing on accounting. Trow, as a senior figure on the New Zealand scene is likewise respected.

It would not have been possible to obtain two better qualified authors to document and evaluate the development of accounting education at the four campuses of the University of New Zealand which became the four independent universities in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

An interesting foreword is provided by Roger Hopkins, another senior figure with firsthand knowledge of several of the universities. It provides an insight into the interaction between the universities and the professional body over the 70 years.

The authors interviewed 17 academics closely involved in the universities and this has enriched the profiles of the seven full professors featured: Rodger, Sidebotham and Stamp (Victoria University of Wellington), Cowan (Otago), Battersby and Carrington (Canterbury) and Johnston (Auckland).

Biographical sketches are provided for an additional seven academics.

A range of photographs put faces to names that are well known to several generations of local accounting students.

There is also a 14‐page appendix listing publications in accounting between 1879 and 1970. This is presented in four sections: the period 1879‐1920, 1920‐1940, 1940‐1960 and 1960‐1970. This presents an inconvenience for a reader wishing to see all the publications of an individual academic. Several academics' works fall into more than one section.

It is unfortunate that no index was included. This would have allowed a reader quickly to turn to link publications with information about the academic and his university.

In today's environment where commerce is well established in all seven New Zealand universities it is sobering to read of 16 years (1918‐1933) when there were no classes in accountancy at Victoria University College.

Enrolments had started at 70 in 1912, fallen to 25 in 1913 and to eight between 1915 and 1917.

Financial support from the professional accounting bodies for the payment of part‐time lecturers was discontinued in 1917 because of declining enrolments.

In 1923 the government, through the Department of Education, requested that the teaching of accountancy be reintroduced at Victoria University College. The Professorial Board declined, saying “Accountancy courses as defined fall below the standard of University subjects, and past experience of student interest was not encouraging.”

It took another decade for that attitude to change. The authors say that the university was persuaded “by the need to increase student numbers and to obtain extra funding.”

Even then, commerce courses were being seen as a cash cow.

The interviews for this book were conducted in May 2001. It has not suffered by being work‐in‐progress for nearly ten years. Indeed, its excellence suggests that the current pressure on young academics to churn out publications in order to gain appointment and promotion is misplaced. Good things do take time.

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