Generic skills for graduate accountants: the bigger picture, a social and economic imperative in the new knowledge economy

Document Type

Journal Article




Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science


Office of Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching) - HES




This article was originally published as: Bunney D., Sharplin E., Howitt C. (2015). Generic skills for graduate accountants: the bigger picture, a social and economic imperative in the new knowledge economy. Higher Education Research and Development. Original article available here


The case for integrating generic skills in university accounting programmes is well documented in the literature, but the implementation of strategies designed to teach generic skills in the context of accounting courses has posed ongoing challenges for academics and course administrators. The imperative for generic skills in accounting programmes derives from an economic view of the role of universities, reflecting the views of government and employers who perceive graduates as economic assets to business and the economy. It is argued that the role of universities extends beyond the economic imperative to encompass a greater social and cultural role. This paper traces the historical evolution of the generic skills discourse with an emphasis on accounting and places it in the broader context of the social and economic roles of universities in an era of transformation in the sector. The generic skills discourse, however, transcends disciplinary boundaries and international borders. The new knowledge economy, emerging as a result of technological advancement, needs graduates across disciplines with flexible mindsets and transferable skill sets, capable of innovating and adapting to a dynamic work environment. Consequently, universities must develop the transferable, generic skills required by graduates to advance their careers and contribute to economic innovation and social development. The generic skills debate must, therefore, be addressed from a systemic perspective, reaching beyond national and disciplinary borders. The lessons learned from the generic skills debate in accounting have wider interdisciplinary application for university policy-makers and educators facing the challenges of a new era in higher education.