Accounting Ethics in Unfriendly Environments: The Educational Challenge.

Autores UPV


In recent years, and in close connection with a number of well-known financial malpractice cases, public debate on business ethics has intensified worldwide, and particularly in ethics-unfriendly environments, such as Spain, with many recent fraud and corruption scandals. In the context of rowing consensus on the need of balancing social prosperity and business profits, concern is increasing for introducing business (and particularly accounting) ethics in higher education curricula. The purpose is to improve ethical behaviour of future business people, and of accounting professionals in particular. In this study, from a sample of 551 business students at a Spanish university, the importance of accounting ethics is investigated. The aim of this paper is twofold. First, we attempt to examine students¿ overall perceptions of business ethics in unfriendly environments and, specifically, their views on the importance and goals of accounting ethics education. Second, we intend to investigate whether potential differences in such perceptions depend on previous business ethics courses taken, gender, and age of students. Our results show that those students who have previously taken an ethics course are especially prone to considering that accounting education should include ethical considerations, and show greater interest in further introducing this subject in their curricula. These facts should encourage universities offering business degrees in ethicsunfriendly environments to extend the implementation of ethics courses in their curricula. Besides, significant differences in students¿ perceptions on the importance of accounting ethics are found depending on their gender and age. In line with previous research findings, female and older students show more ethical inclinations than, respectively, male and younger students. Thus, ethics-unfriendly environments can be treated as contexts where general trends on students¿ ethical attitudes are also clearly visible. This fact, together with the evidenced impact of ethics courses on students¿ ethical inclinations, places ethics-unfriendly environments as crucial research settings for further inquiring into the nuances that help explain students¿ attitudes towards accounting ethics and the role of ethics courses in business degree curricula.