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Reimagining the future of accounting education

With a strong vision in accounting education, Philomena Leung has joined the Institute of Public Accountants as the body’s new director of education, charged with building its presence in university and TAFE networks, and driving the transformation of its professional development program.    

Reimagining the future of accounting education
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PROFESSOR LEUNG’S career kicked off in Hong Kong with an initial stint with KPMG, which soon evolved into a life changing opportunity at Hong Kong Polytechnic University where she would go on to spend 14 years, honing her professorial skills.     

In 1990, Professor Leung packed her bags and relocated to Australia to pursue a role at the Victorian University of Technology.     Over the last 44 years, Professor Leung has become a celebrated name in educational circles, having occupied key position at RMIT, Deakin University and Macquarie University.     

Now she is a proud director of the Institute of Internal Auditors.  Speaking of her passion for auditing, Professor Leung says “auditing is in my blood”.    

 She says, “I have a very strong passion for auditing. The reason I like auditing so much, and that obviously started with my first professional experience at KPMG, it’s because one can stand above all the details so that you actually see the wood from the tree or the tree from the wood.

“That is where you can tell the story of a particular organisation or profession, where they have been, where they’re going and how they’re doing. I just love it!” Professor Leung exclaims.

But Professor Leung is a woman of many passions. Another key one being education. She sets herself apart from other academics with her love for out of the box thinking.

“I am passionate about making sure future generations are able to keep abreast whatever is going on and understand the impact of environments of their career, on the way they conduct their life,” Professor Leung says.

 “I believe in people opening up their minds, I don’t like people who are confined to a linear or a tunnel vision.”

Through her work, Professor Leung’s aim is to impart her knowledge on others to a degree that alters their lives for the better.

 “I feel like I have to help people, especially young people,” she says. “If I can, I can actually change the model of education so that they actually open up their minds.”

Professor Leung believes she owes her new role at the IPA to her prominence in driving innovative thinking through schooling. Commenting on her appointment, IPA CEO Andrew Conway highlighted Professor Leung’s wealth of experience, connections and sincere passion for accounting education transformation.  

 The timing of this new addition to the IPA team coincides with the body’s crucial transformation towards sustainable accounting education that will enhance the value created by public accountants.    

 “Put simply, we are ready to lead the conversation on transforming education to meet the changing needs of business and our community,” Mr Conway said.    

 As for why she said ‘yes’ to becoming the IPA’s education lead, Professor Leung explains her fascination with the body’s member base.

  “The IPA represents the everyday accountant,” she exclaims excitedly.

 Her ultimate goal at the IPA is to reimagine accounting education, as well as exploring ways to innovate and invigorate it. According to Professor Leung, the technical training that underpins continuing professional development (CPD) for accountants is at risk of becoming victim to machine learning and AI.    

“That’s why something must be done,” she says strongly. “The whole purpose of me joining, apart from engaging and obviously overseeing the whole of the education program and the assessment, is looking at how to transform and to explore the possibilities of building microcredentials.”

Ultimately, together with the IPA, Professor Leung aims to prep the accounting profession for the future.

 “The IPA is about improving lives.  Our practitioners benefit from skill-related technical education and training.  However, the changing accounting environment requires broader education pathways to prepare for our new normal – a phase of dramatic change in which accountants and auditors will have to be involved in the environmental, social and governance aspects of a company’s affairs because of the risks and stakeholder demands. I feel a sense of urgency in enabling change,” Professor Leung says.

She stresses the importance of defining the profession’s contribution to society, including social and environmental issues, by refocusing education policies to causes that matter.

 “The accounting profession in Australia is shrinking,” Professor Leung says. “The world is changing, and people want to know what accounting does for them.

 “Accountants have sidelined things like sustainability, gender issues, as things that are peripheral.” Education 3.0 is where Professor Leung is headed.

“It’s long-haul, it’s a movement, it’s about completely reimagining the accounting profession.”

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