SHE Level 4
SCQF Credit Points 20.00
ECTS Credit Points 10.00
Module Code MHN425775
Module Leader Jane Burt
School Glasgow School for Business and Society
Subject Finance and Accounting
  • A (September start)

Pre-Requisite Knowledge

Financial and Management Accounting levels 1,2 and 3

Summary of Content

The critical accounting literature focuses attention on how large societal institutions are administered and held to account. It draws on perspectives from other social sciences in order to illuminate (and possibly transform) accounting practices. The module seeks to evaluate current accounting thinking by reference to the literature produced by proponents of critical accounting theories. Following a reassessment of mainstream accounting thinking, students re-examine the conventional accounting paradigm from a number of different perspectives. The critical accounting literature is now considerable. In consequence, some seminal papers and some current papers written from the standpoint of each of the alternative perspectives are examined.


The syllabus contains the following topic areas, with some areas spanning 2 or 3 weeks: Topic areas covered: Week 1: Introduction to Critical Perspectives on Accounting Week 2: The received wisdom and alternative perspectives. Week 2: Mainstream accounting encounters interpretive research developments out of behavioural accounting research. Week 3: Challenging the mainstream through contextual and critical analysis: arguments for a social analysis of accounting. Week 4: The mainstream encounters an explicitly critical stance: questioning accounting's neutrality. Week 5-7: Alternative approaches to the critical social analysis of accounting: Marxism Week 8: A labour process perspective Week 9: Foucault Week 10: Critical Theory/Habermas Week 11-12: Feminism

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, the student should be able to:1. Critically analyse conventional accounting theory;2. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the paradigms that compete with accounting's received wisdom;3. Evaluate the principal alternative arguments forwarded by critical theorists;4. Appraise the application to accounting of alternative critical perspectives;5. Assess the contribution made to accounting by critical theorists.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

The teaching/learning strategy has two interrelated elements: Lectures are used to provide an overview of topics. Seminars provide opportunities for consideration and critical discussion to expand/transform a student's knowledge base. The teaching of this module is based on a dialogic approach to learning; that of debate, conversation and informed opinions. The majority of the module is therefore student-led. For all topics studied, students will be required to demonstrate critical thinking skills, a level of reading comprehension/ability to make sense of the presented materials and to elect relevant information and integrate with other knowledge. More generally, teaching students how to be constructive learners. Seminar tasks requiring learners to explain their own ideas and ensuring that these ideas are accurate require timely feedback. Students will be provided with both formative and summative feedback via a variety of mechanisms Feedback Strategy Students will be provided with feedback on all forms of assessed work within three weeks of submission. They will also receive feedback on all group or individual contributions to the module. The following strategies will be adopted: A: Encouraging dialogue. Seminars form the largest part of classroom activity. These are designed (among other things) to facilitate students entering into dialogue both with their peers and with the tutor. Formative feedback will be given during seminars through plenary discussion of journal articles and observation of presentations. B: Clarifying good performance. Students will be provided with information about marking criteria and performance level definitions. C: Providing opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance. The seminars provide the opportunity to constantly reflect on performance. In addition, students will be asked to identify action points based on the feedback they have received. D: Delivering high quality information about learning. Summative feedback will be provided within three weeks of submission of coursework/presentations and will provide information on strengths, weaknesses and corrective advice. E: Encouraging positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem. Opportunities will be provided for students to receive individual feedback designed to encourage positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem. G: Providing information to teachers that can be used to help shape the teaching. The seminars provide the opportunity to constantly reflect on the module. In addition, students will be asked to identify where they are having difficulties when they make their presentations and when they hand in their assignment. GCU Learn is used to support learning activities. GSBS will continue to use the advancement of GCU Learn as a blended learning tool through its teaching and learning as well as through engagement with students. GSBS will ensure that all modules are GCU Learn enabled and with the support of the Learning Technologists at the cutting edge of development of online materials. Academic staff an d the Learning Technologists will continue to work together to develop and operate all modules on GCULearn to ensure student support and information sharing. Students are provided with formative and summative feedback via a variety of mechanisms. Feedback on coursework is pro vided within 3 working weeks of submission.

Indicative Reading

Mainly journal based: Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal Accounting, Organisations and Society Accounting History Journal Critical Perspectives on Accounting Journal of Accounting and Public Policy Best, S. (2003), A Beginner's Guide to Social Theory, Sage Callinicos, A. (1999), Social Theory: A Historical Introduction, Polity Press Gallhofer, S. and Haslam, J. (2003), Accounting and Emancipation, Routledge Harris, D. (2003), Teaching Yourself Social Theory, Sage Publications Jones, T. C. (1995), Accounting and the Enterprise - a Social Analysis, Routledge Layder, D.L. (2006), Understanding Social Theory, London: Sage Publications Lehman, C.R. (1992), Accounting's Changing Roles in Social Conflict, Paul Chapman Macintosh, N.B. (2008), Accounting, Accountants, and Accountability, London: Routledge Puxty, A.G. (1993), The Social and Organisational Context of Management Accounting, Academic Press Roslender, R. (1992), Sociological Perspectives on Modern Accountancy, Routledge Smart, B (2013), Foucault, Marxism and Critique (ebook) Tinker, T. (1985), Paper Prophets - A Social Critique of Accounting, Holt Rinehart and Winston Online sources C.mass.apps Marxists Internet Archive Students must use online sources in researching for group presentation

Transferrable Skills

By the end of this module students will have gained competence in the following key areas: Professional/practical skills Execution of a defined project of research. This will be reflected in acquiring, analysing and communicating information for the essay; Personal development skills and enterprise or business skills Using a range of forms of communication effectively and conveying complex ideas in a well-structured and coherent form. This will be reflected in acquiring, analysing and communicating information for the essay, in seminar contributions, and in the presentations; Making formal presentations about a specialised topic. This will be reflected in the presentations; Practising in ways which show a clear awareness of own and others' roles and responsibilities. This will be reflected in the group presentation and in seminar contributions.

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Seminars (FT) 22.00
Lectures (FT) 12.00
Independent Learning (FT) 126.00
Assessment (FT) 40.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Coursework 2 n/a 50.00 35% Individual essay 2000 words.
Coursework 1 n/a 50.00 35% Weekly contribution in/chairing of seminars along with group presentation summarising insights of a critical social analysis of an organisation's annual report (20 minutes)