This paper sets out to analyse the role of ethics and moral values in higher education, as well as the articulation with two important professions in the financial area, because ethics and professional deontology play an important role in organizations and society, which have a great concern with corporate social responsibility.
The literature review allows one to build a questionnaire used to evaluate the ethical behaviour and rules of ethics in a sample of higher education students of the third year of an Accounting and Finance course in the Business Administration College of the Setúbal Polytechnic Institute. The same questionnaire was applied to those students wishing to become chartered accounts and statutory auditors. Finally an exploratory analysis was carried out that summarises the questionnaire, categorising in several clusters as result of cluster analysis, according to the variables that had higher scores.
The concept of ethics is not a consensual one among the different investigators: for some it means a set of rules, principles and values that may be mistaken for morality from a broader point of view. Some authors consider ethics as a judging reflection upon morality. Concerning the cognitive dimension of attitude towards ethics, the subject of ethics and professional deontology strengthened the answers to the questions with lower scores. Concerning the affective/assessing attitude of ethics, the subject of ethics and professional deontology strengthened the students' convictions about the importance of the existence of a deontological code, of ethical principles and of accounting information, as well as the question with the lowest score (the entity's interest is more important).
The results of this research confirm the initial hypothesis that higher education students of the third year of an Accounting and Finance course in the Business Administration College of the Setúbal Polytechnic Institute do not know the limitations of ethical behaviour.
This paper provides valuable empirical evidence in the role of ethics and moral values in higher education, because teaching ethics and professional deontology is an essential need of society and is inherent to teaching activity that must be promoted by policy makers.
Alegria Carreira, F., do Amparo Guedes, M. and da Conceição Aleixo, M. (2008), "Can we teach ethics and professional deontology? An empirical study regarding the Accounting and Finance degree", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 4 No. 1/2, pp. 89-103. https://doi.org/10.1108/17471110810856866
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