The accounting profession and education: The development of disengaged scholarly activity in accounting in South Africa

Grietjie Verhoef, Grant Samkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine how the actions of the accounting profession, the state, universities, and academics have inhibited the development of South African accounting research. Design/methodology/approach: A multiple history approach using traditional archival material and oral history is used. Findings: Since the late nineteenth-century, a network of human and non-human actors has ensured that accounting education in South Africa retained a technical focus. By prescribing and detailing the accounting syllabuses required for university accreditation, the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) and its predecessors exercise direct control over accounting education. As a result, little appetite exists for a discipline based on academic enquiry or engagement with international scholars. While the SAICA claims to support accounting research, this support is conditional on its meeting the professional body’s particular view of scholarship. Research limitations/implications: The limitations associated with this research are that it focusses on one particular professional body in one jurisdiction. The South African situation provides a cautionary tale of how universities, particularly those in developing countries, should take care not to abdicate their responsibilities for the setting of syllabi or course content to professional bodies. Accounting academics, particularly those in a developing country currently experiencing major social, political, and economic problems, are in a prime position to engage in research that will benefit society as a whole. Originality/value: Although actor network theory has been used in accounting research and in particular to explain accounting knowledge creation, the use of this particular theoretical lens to examine the construction of professional knowledge is limited. This study draws on Callon’s (1986) four moments to explain how various human actors including the accounting profession, the state, universities, and accounting academics, along with non-human actors such as accreditation, regulation, and transformation, have brought about South African academic disengagement with the discipline.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1370-1398
Number of pages29
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Accounting profession
  • Actor network theory
  • Knowledge base
  • Multiple histories approach
  • Regulation
  • Universities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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