The Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program: A status report

BY DOYLE Z. WILLIAMS, CPA (INACTIVE), PH.D., AND STEVE MATZKE
October 1, 2012

The Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program is the largest investment ever made by the accounting profession to advance accounting education. The program represents the most significant cooperative initiative undertaken jointly by the accounting educational community and the accounting profession.

The unprecedented effort to increase the number of doctoral candidates studying tax or auditing is reaping results. For the fall 2012 semester, 114 individuals identified and supported by the program are enrolled at universities participating in the initiative. After graduation in spring 2013, the first class of scholars will enter the marketplace for academically qualified university faculty, with three classes to follow. In addition to addressing a shortage of academically qualified faculty, these graduates will bring professional experience to the classroom and their research. 

The program, commonly referred to as the ADS Program, was developed from a series of reports spanning from 2003 to 2008 from The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) and the American Accounting Association that identified a significant and growing shortage of accounting doctoral faculty. The data indicated that the annual supply of doctoral graduates in tax and auditing was only meeting 22.8% of the demand for doctoral graduates in auditing and only 27.1% in tax. Demographic data indicated a significant increase in faculty retirements in the next decade, leading to an even greater future shortage of academically qualified accounting faculty.

To respond to these reports, William Ezzell, then-president of the AICPA Foundation, established and led an ad hoc advisory committee in 2006 to help identify how to address the growing threat to the supply of future talent to the public accounting profession. Following the work of the ad hoc advisory committee, representatives of the largest accounting firms began discussing possible steps to address the looming shortage of Ph.D.s. From this work, two challenges were identified for the profession to address. First, accounting-doctoral-granting universities identified the lack of funding as a handicap for increasing assistantship slots for doctoral students. Second, the lack of qualified applicants was also reported.

Ezzell sought financial support, and the largest accounting firms responded by agreeing to commit funding to increase the number of doctoral assistantship slots. They also pledged assistance in recruiting doctoral applicants from within their firms. 

Sixty-eight firms, 48 state CPA societies, the AICPA, and a small number of other donors committed $17 million over an eight-year period to the program, to be administered through the AICPA Foundation. See a list of sponsors on the ADS website at adsphd.org/participants.asp

In spring of 2008, an advisory council was established to provide oversight and develop policies and procedures for administering the program. In addition, the council approved admission of participating universities to the program, participated in orientation conferences, represented the ADS Program in numerous other forums, and recruited candidates for the program. 

MISSION, OBJECTIVES, AND GOAL

The mission of the ADS Program and its sponsoring organizations is to increase the pool of academically qualified accounting faculty in tax and auditing, with recent experience in public accounting, at U.S. universities that provide talent to the public accounting profession. 

  1. To achieve its mission, the program seeks to increase the supply of qualified candidates to accounting doctoral programs, and to increase the capacity of universities to accept additional students into doctoral study in auditing and tax by:
     
    Encouraging practitioners with recent public accounting experience in auditing or tax to obtain a doctorate as a transition to becoming a university faculty member.
  2. Providing financial support to enable selected qualified candidates to pursue a doctorate in accounting.
  3. Encouraging universities to increase doctoral enrollments in auditing and tax but not at the expense of existing funded slots.
  4. Improving the educational preparation of accounting students that would be derived from the rich professional experience of the infusion of talent from the profession into the classroom.

The goal of the program was set to place in four years as incremental enrollees 120 men and women with recent public accounting experience in auditing and tax into accounting doctoral programs at participating universities. Each enrolled program scholar would receive a stipend of $30,000 per year for four years of study. 

PARTICIPATING UNIVERSITIES

The availability of accounting doctoral programs at universities with the capacity to enroll additional doctoral students with a focus in auditing or tax was critical to the ADS’s success. The ADS Program's Advisory Council used data to screen schools to be invited to join. Priority was given to universities with a track record of placing doctoral graduates at schools that produce the major proportion of the talent in auditing and tax for the public accounting profession. 

Recently established programs or restructured programs were given the opportunity to make the case that their programs have the potential for their future doctoral graduates to gain such placement. All applications were screened for faculty strength in auditing and tax. Each participating university was required to document that enrolled ADS Program Scholars were incremental enrollments and not replacements in currently funded slots. The number of participating universities each year of initial enrollments ranged from 39 to 42. See a list of participating universities at adsphd.org/participatingschools.asp.

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA

To be eligible to apply to the ADS Program, candidates were required to fulfill the following requirements:

  1. Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  2. Have at least three years of recent public accounting experience in auditing or tax.
  3. Commit to attending an ADS Participating University.
  4. Commit to an auditing or tax program of study.
  5. Commit to teach at a U.S. AACSB-accredited university upon completion of their doctoral program.
  6. If selected, attend the ADS Program’s Orientation Conference and Programs Fair to gain an understanding of what to expect in a doctoral program and visit with representatives of participating universities.

It is worth noting that all candidates funded are CPAs. The average Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) score for each of the four classes placed was more than 700 (out of 800).

SUPPORT OF THE CENTER FOR AUDIT QUALITY

In 2011, the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) began providing funding support for designated ADS Program Scholars in auditing to attend the American Accounting Association’s annual meeting. From these candidates, the CAQ selects some ADS Program Scholars to participate in the annual CAQ Symposium. These events provide an excellent opportunity for ADS Program Scholars to engage with the leading researchers in auditing and to learn about research opportunities important to the auditing profession. 

IMPACT

The program will continue in an administrative capacity for four more years. After that, this iteration of the ADS Program will close. An AICPA Foundation task force is determining the next step in its doctoral initiatives. 

The ADS Program has demonstrated there are highly qualified candidates with professional experience who are open to becoming accounting professors. However, they know little about life as accounting faculty members. They have even less understanding of what an accounting doctoral program is all about. The ADS Program is the most significant initiative ever undertaken to address these issues. Its sponsors and participating universities can take great pride in the forthcoming outcome of their joint efforts.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program and its sponsoring organizations are working to increase the pool of academically qualified accounting faculty in tax and auditing with recent experience in public accounting at U.S. universities. 

To achieve its mission, the program seeks to increase the supply of qualified candidates to accounting doctoral programs, and to expand the capacity of universities to accept additional students into doctoral study in auditing and tax.

Sixty-eight firms, 48 state CPA societies, and a small number of other donors committed $17 million over eight years to the program, to be administered through the AICPA Foundation. 

For the fall 2012 semester, 114 ADS program scholars are enrolled at participating universities. The first class of scholars will enter the marketplace after graduation in spring 2013, with three classes to follow. In addition to addressing the shortage of academically qualified faculty, these graduates will bring professional experience to the classroom and their research.

Doyle Z. Williams ( doylewilliams@gmail.com ) is dean emeritus at the University of Arkansas and was executive director of the Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program until Aug. 31. Steve Matzke ( smatzke@aicpa.org ) is senior manager of the Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program with the AICPA.

To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Paul Bonner, senior editor, at pbonner@aicpa.org or 919-402-4434.

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