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MN20508: Contemporary issues in accounting and finance practice

[Page last updated: 23 August 2022]

Academic Year: 2022/23
Owning Department/School: School of Management
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Intermediate (FHEQ level 5)
Semester 1
Assessment Summary: CW 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • Coursework 1 (CW 50% - Qualifying Mark: 35)
  • Coursework 2 (CW 50% - Qualifying Mark: 35)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Requisites: Before taking this module you must take MN10008 OR take MN10476 OR take MN10668
Learning Outcomes: On completion of this unit students should be able to describe contemporary business and social issues affecting or likely to affect accounting and finance practice as covered in the unit, and discuss their implications for practitioners, businesses and wider society. The following illustrate the application of these general learning outcomes by reference to some current issues as identified under 'Content' below but as covered in that section the content and therefore the precise outcomes will depend on developments in practice:
1. Describe the institutional framework governing the demand for and delivery of services provided by professional accounting and finance practitioners in terms of supporting the maximisation of shareholder value and market efficiency by ensuring accountability to stakeholders, good governance and ethical practice,
2. Identify potential conflicts of interest in accounting and finance practice and discuss which elements in the institutional framework and ethics are relevant to particular conflicts,
3. Describe the causes of, mechanisms involved in and remedies for recent cases of the manipulation of financial markets, and discuss implications for ethical practice in financial institutions,
4. Explain the roles of EU and UK institutions in the development of accounting and finance practice with particular reference to reform of the market for professional accounting services and the imposition of a financial transactions tax,
5. Describe the role of financial institutions in precipitating the last financial crisis and discuss potential/adopted public policy measures for modifying the behaviour of such institutions with particular reference to limitations on bankers' remuneration,
6. Discuss arguments for broadening the scope of the corporate accounting and reporting regime, proposed methods and the response of businesses in terms of current practice,
7. Discuss arguments for the development of the role of professional accountants in business in terms of the contribution they can make to the achievement of business objectives and describe methods for implementing accounting role change with particular reference to organisational design, cross-functional working and skill development methods,
8. Discuss the reform of state pensions and annuities markets in the context of changes in government finances and demography, and
9. Identify managerial options in the context of practical situations involving one or more of the issues covered above, and make relevant recommendations.

Aims: To give students an appreciation of the practice of accounting and finance, and the factors influencing, or likely to influence, practice in the future as a result of current developments in business practice and social (including political/economic) drivers of change.
As well as drawing together the underlying technical disciplines and broadening the student's academic perspective on their practice, the course equips students with a practical understanding of the roles of accountants and the finance sector in maximising shareholder value and market efficiency while meeting social expectations through :
* supporting achievement of organisational objectives,
* ensuring accountability to financial and non-financial stakeholders, and
* exercising ethical practice and good governance.
This understanding will assist students' in their pursuit of placements and transition to the workplace. In this context, the skills element of the course focuses on skills which have been identified as critical in career progression for accountants and finance practitioners but which are not generally developed by professional training programmes in their early stages, especially communication with non-experts and the ability to identify relevant issues and make well-founded recommendations in practical situations.
The content has an international perspective but the focus is on the legal/regulatory regime of the UK as a model given the important international roles played by its professional accounting bodies and financial markets.

Skills: Intellectual skills
* Contextualise institutional mechanisms in terms of their contribution to market efficiency and shareholder value (TFA).
* Evaluate arguments for change in the context of a given decision framework (TFA). Professional/Practical Skills
* Analyse practical situations to identify issues of principle and connect them to sources of relevant guidance (TFA).
* Make recommendations balancing the interests of the decision-maker's organisation, authorities, the practice of peers and other context-dependent considerations (TFA).
* Convey the findings from analysis and make recommendations on accounting-related matters in a non-technical form readily accessible to management (TFA). Transferable/Key Skills
* Undertake analysis in practical cases involving relevant and irrelevant information (TFA).
* Design practical business communications in a form appropriate to the audience (TFA).

Content: By its nature, the unit content will be directed towards issues in accounting and finance practice that are contemporary at the time of delivery. For illustrative purposes, the following are current issues at the time of writing that would be included (many of which are likely to have continuing relevance in future):
1. Institutional framework: Actors and their roles, markets for accountants and accounting-related services, the roles of proper-functioning financial markets, legislation and regulation governing reporting and professional practice in accounting and finance.
2. Accounting ethics and principles of corporate governance - the role of the accountant in business and society, and the consequences of failure. Illustration by reference to historic cases of large-scale failure (e.g. Enron, WorldCom, Lehman Brothers) and allegations in current cases (e.g. Autonomy, Tesco).
3. Ethical behaviour in finance markets - recognising the needs of customers and broader society in advising on and undertaking financial transactions, including threats from involvement in setting market standards (Libor fixing and forex rates) and the potential for market manipulation,
4. Ethical perspectives on international tax planning and the advisory role of accountants - 'legality v. morality', for example in the deliberations of the Public Accounts Committee on the cases of Amazon, Google, Starbucks et al.
5. Threats to competition and thus audit reliability from market concentration and the risk of firm failure. Responses by the Competition Commission and the EU in terms of the audit relationship and limitations on the work of audit firms.
6. The role of financial institutions in the recent financial crisis and the responses of EU and UK institutions, particularly limitations on the remuneration of bankers and the imposition of a European-wide financial transactions tax.
7. Concepts of accountability beyond historic financial results and its market relevance: forward-looking business information, corporate responsibility reporting and its mechanisms, such as the GRI and the integrated reporting initiative.
8. Changes in the role of the accountant in business practice - the "business partner" concept. Distinctive capabilities of the professional accountant, implementation of the "business partner" concept and limitations.
9. Developments in pensions provision and annuities markets as a response to changes in economic and social conditions such as the deterioration in government finances and increased longevity.
It is intended that presentations by practitioners dealing with as many as possible of the subjects covered in the unit will form part of the unit content.

Programme availability:

MN20508 is Compulsory on the following programmes:

School of Management
  • UMMN-AFB02 : BSc(Hons) Accounting and Finance (Year 2)
  • UMMN-AKB02 : BSc(Hons) Accounting and Finance with Year long work placement (Year 2)

MN20508 is Optional on the following programmes:

School of Management
  • UMMN-ANB07 : BSc(Hons) Business with Thin sandwich placement(s) (Year 3)


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2022/23 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2023/24 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2022/23.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
  • Find out more about these and other important University terms and conditions here.