AuthorPitulice, Ileana Cosmina
  1. Introduction

    The idea of this research derives from the discrepancy between the trend of transformations in the public administration sector and the academic and accounting professional environment. All these changes are circumscribed to the New Public Management policy, which is one of the most important reforms in the public sector during the last 30 years (Hintea, Profiroiu and Ticlau, 2015). As a consequence of the New Public Management, an important change took place in the financial reporting of Romanian public sector entities: transfer from cash accounting to accrual accounting. The accrual accounting concept offers a more transparent, reliable and fair view on public sector's financial reporting. Thus entities' management can fundament decisions on relevant, trusty, opportune and transparent information for an efficient distribution of public resources and an increased credibility of citizens.

    However, the studies performed evidenced that among the multiple causes of distortion of the true and fair view in financial reporting there are: insufficient professional training of professionals employed in financial-accounting departments, the insufficient number of professionals in public sector entities, the difficulty of recruiting well trained accounting professionals due to the low level of salaries, limited professional judgment of accountants in financial-accounting departments, incorrect interpretation of accounting regulations (...) (Pitulice and Stefanescu, 2016). These were generated by the radical changes in accounting regulations for the Romanian public sector, regulations that were incomplete in terms of accrual accounting adoption (Tiron-Tudor, Nistor and Carstea, 2012) and of reduced comparability with International Public Sector Accounting Standards (Tiron-Tudor, 2010). In this context, a pertinent analysis of the present educational system and professional training and a realistic approach of curricula are needed.

    From the accounting profession point of view, the Body of Experts and Licensed Accountants of Romania (CECCAR) are also involved in the training of the future accounting professionals in the government accounting field. An argument in this respect is the inclusion of government accounting discipline (GA) in the syllabus required for the potential CECCAR Experts' access examination.

    As an exception to the ordinary regulation, accounting professionals activating in public sector entities are not required to become CECCAR members. Also, public services' employees cannot activate as CECCAR experts, and those working in the public sector are required to declare themselves as non-active members. Under this perspective, there is a small number of accounting professionals employees that are also CECCAR members in the public administration sector. Therefore, the access to continuing development training programs offered by CECCAR expert status is limited, as well as the relationship with the accounting profession environment.

    Regarding the academic environment, the number of teaching hours for GA in the curricula of the School of Accounting and Management Information Systems (AMIS part of the Bucharest University of Economic Studies) has decreased in the last years. The Bucharest University of Economic Studies is the only Romanian university having almost exclusively economic specializations, activating for more than a century in the Romanian academic environment and, for that reason, the AMIS school is representative for the number of undergraduates/ graduates.

    GA as a discipline has been shifted from the second year of study to the third year (final year), when the interest of students is quite low for anything not related to Financial Accounting which is their main option for the Bachelor's degree thesis. In this respect, in the university environment, there is a recognized need to increase the Romanian students' interest and involvement in the learning process (Profiroiu, 2013).

    Thus, the research idea was to investigate the opinion of the senior year in respect to GA as part of the AMIS undergraduate curricula and their perception on GA's importance in their undergraduate curricula.

  2. Literature review

    Government accounting education is approached in a limited manner in accounting literature. Globalization and changes generated by NPM require a new profile for accounting professionals and also the curricula's update.

    The release of a major review on accounting higher education emphasizes the following milestones: (a) curricula and course content are expected to be more open and relevant to the economic environment; (b) pedagogical techniques need to promote creativity rather than memorization; (c) development of generic skills; (d) focus on technology for decision making; (e) strengthen faculty development and reward systems; (f) implementing strategic directions to enforce the importance and usefulness of general accounting education (Albrecht and Sack, 2000). University accounting education should be focused not only on technical accounting issues, but also on developing personal skills and competencies that generally help students--future graduates--to be successful in their careers (Hurt, 2007).

    If business accounting education has been constantly reviewed so that it can face the challenges of a permanent changing economic environment, government accounting education has not been updated in the same rhythm. In the past few decades, demand for an advanced government accounting education has increased, due to several factors, such as deficiencies in governmental audits, the issuance of complex public sector accounting and auditing standards as well as the need for highly trained professionals in public sector entities (Wilson, 2013).

    The challenge faced by universities when updating the curricula so that they can develop government accounting together with other types of accounting is that of capturing students' interest for this subject (Miller, 2006). Different accounting treatments and techniques for governmental financial reporting, as well as the low interest of undergraduate students in developing a public sector career lead to a very small emphasis on this study subject.

    The public accounting course is sometimes considered the 'ugly stepsister' within the accounting curricula. Some colleges and universities include this discipline within an undergraduate program, others offer it as an elective course. There are cases when it is offered as an abbreviated one-credit course. This happens in terms of a global rise of government accounting due to an increased demand for accountability by the democratic and market economies, which is a reality for a few decades (Chan, 2003). Henry (2005) considers that the academic response to the increasing needs of highly trained professionals in the government accounting field was minimal. The exposure of business students to government and not-for-profit accounting did not increase with the same speed as the development of these two sectors. A study from 2007 investigates the perceptions of professors regarding the relative importance of governmental and non-profit accounting topics coverage in an undergraduate accounting course. Major findings such as slow curricula redesign, lower convergence of the profession demands or lack of appropriate time to cover all materials, generated some conclusions: the need for innovative learning methods and a permanent critical assessment of structure, content and presentation methods (Daniels, Gupta and Pridgen, 2007).

    Specific Romanian research had demonstrated the usefulness of accrual accounting and added arguments for the increasing implication of accounting in the public sector management and its importance to the efficiency and effectiveness of public sector management (Deaconu, Nistor and Filip, 2011).

    In 2015, the National Agency of Civil Servants from Romania (NACS) had conducted a national research study in order to assess the connection between the higher education quality perception and the labor market requirements. The sample focused on 240 students, from 20 Romanian universities. Almost 25% of the respondents express a critical opinion about the public administration system, 44% of respondents would like to work in Romania or to continue their studies and 2/3 would consider a career in public administration, the main reason being the job stability. More than 45% of respondents considered that their academic training is strongly correlated with the job requirements for public servants, legal courses being more relevant than the management ones. On the other hand, the majority of the respondents consider that the academic programs are mostly focusing on technical knowledge and competences, whereas competences and skills in communication and public relations need to have a higher weight within the curricula (NACS, 2015). From this point of view, the NACS's findings are not convergent to those in our research, but the explanation could be that of the students' profile: while NACS's research questioned public administration undergraduates, our research is based on accounting undergraduates' responses. However, in what...

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