The Doctorate (PhD) In Accountancy In Europe: 3.1

Posted by WILLEM BUIJINK - Apr 29, 2017

In my 2013 note I ‘designed’ a Doctoral program in Accountancy as follows, using the Tilburg Doctoral program setup as an example. I was in Tilburg at the time. The generic design is visible of course.

Note that Tilburg has a 2-year MRes program. In Business and Economics in the Netherlands, normal Master programs are 1 year, as in the UK and Flanders. Elsewhere in Europe they are 2-year programs. After the 2-year MRes programs, students enter the Promovendus ‘phase’; three years of Doctoral Thesis writing. As Promovendus, the official name for this position, they are an employee of the Accountancy Department in Tilburg.

I wrote in my 2013 note:

The Bologna Bachelor-Master framework makes it easy to explain the structure of a Research Master in Accountancy. I will describe the Tilburg program, slightly stylized to make comparisons easier.

A two-year Master program, under the Bologna Credit Trading System, consists of 120 European Credits (ECTS). Students that enter the program have a Bachelor degree, usually in Business Economics, Management or Economics.

In Tilburg the 2nd year Research Master Thesis is a 30 ECTS thesis. The remaining 90 ECTS are used as follows: 5 ‘Research in Accountancy’ courses: 5 x 6 ECTS. These are (and I also give the name(s) of the Tilburg course coordinator): Introduction to Financial Accounting Research (Joos); Research in Financial Accounting (van Lent); Research in Management Accounting (Bouwens); Analytical Research in Accounting (De Waegenaere, Suijs); Behavioural Research in Accounting (Cardinaels).

Accountancy institutions are of course also discussed in these courses.

The remainder of 60 ECTS of courses (10 x 6 ECTS) are the following: Mathematics, Econometrics I, II, III, IV, Multivariate Statistics, Micro-economics I and II, Finance I and II (or Organization Studies). These courses are taught by Tilburg Economics,  Econometrics, Finance and Organization Faculty, and the MRes Accountancy students take them jointly with economics, econometrics and other business students. 

Also, note that the latter courses basically fill the first year, i.e. the Accountancy Research Courses, are in year 2, except for Philip Joos’ intro course.

Intake is on average 5 Accountancy Research Master students each year (note that the regular Tilburg Master in Accounting student intake is 150 these days. […] Jan Bouwens, who runs the Tilburg Accountancy Research Master, wants to increase its annual intake to 10 students. 



  • Some of the mentioned professors teaching the Accountancy courses have by now left Tilburg. Also, as an aside, Philip Joos will be your new EAA president for the next two years.
  • Jan Bouwens’ ambition to reach an intake of 10 students has proven difficult. Not his fault though. I have a feeling that it may still happen in the near future.
  • More importantly I realized after writing the note, that the described clean setup, may not be possible, and necessary, elsewhere, and not even in the Netherlands. I will return to this realization in a later post.
  • The design here is an econ based design. So I anticipated criticism from the Behavioural and the Critical Perspectives Communities in the EAA. That why I added this closing observation to my note:
    • Colleagues from the behavioural and critical wings of our Association should see that of course courses in sociology, psychology, and philosophy could take the place of micro-economics and finance in an Accountancy Research Master. […] And econometrics can be called ‘statistics’.
  • Another criticism that was voiced is that the described design is modelled after the taught part of US and Canadian PhD programs in Accountancy. This is true. But why not use an effective existing model? In a later post I will show you other examples of this happening: nearby.
  • Finally I explicitely urged, in fact I said ‘could, but ‘should’ is better, the EAA Management Committee to do the following:
    • “”What the EAA MC [should] do is […] state that it is the Association’s pertinent goal that by 2020 (AMBITION 2020) in the top-100 Doctoral Accountancy Degree granting schools in the EU there is in place a two-year or a one-year (second) Accountancy Research Master Degree program [as sketched in this note].””

The economics of MRes/Doctorate programs design was largely absent in my note. The note is a exercise in design. My advice to the EAA Management Committe was also normative.

How to create a beautiful MRes/Doctorate program in Accountancy?

I now turn to the economics of MRes/Doctorate programs to strengthen my advice.

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