In today's rapidly changing world, the skills and knowledge required to succeed in the accounting and finance professions are constantly evolving.
In this interview, we speak with Prof. Dr. Edita Gimžauskienė, Dean of KTU SEB, about the benefits of this partnership, the correlation between student grades and career success, and the future of the profession.
1. University is cooperating with ACCA for a long time. Share your impressions of what students get because of our partnership and cooperation.
The needs of national business and mainly, the need for accounting have shaped the content of accounting and finance professions in Lithuania for a long time. A large number of accounting degree programs, mostly delivered in colleges prepare professionals for the workplace, well illustrates this. Efforts to invent professional national standards of professional evaluation are also an example of this Lithuanian tradition. SEB's (School of Economics and Business) choice to develop an Accounting and Auditing program that meets the requirements of the Global Professional Network ACCA was rather an ambitious step at the time, with the clear aim of ensuring the international standard. Today, our graduates are in good positions for several reasons. We aim to provide them with systematic knowledge relevant to ACCA content rather than prepare them for the workplace, which is very likely to disappear due to technologies. In addition, I think that as the business environment in Lithuania changes, with the arrival of foreign investors, the need for certified knowledge, such as ACCA, is only growing.
2. Does the student's career correlate with the graduation grades?
The situation we have in Lithuania is unique in the way that almost all of our full-time students are employed. Two-year studies are a real challenge for most. However, the good side of this situation is that people with careers directly related to accounting and auditing come to the Master of Accounting and Auditing studies. I think the experience with a group of students who graduated last year and who studied our program in English in Vilnius best illustrates the correlation between career and the program. Most of them already worked in BIG 4 companies during their studies. However, their study experience and feedback about the program were excellent, as they said it helped them systemize their experience and gain new knowledge.
3. In your position, you are closest to employers who hire young professionals who have come out of your talent pool. What kind of feedback do you get? Is there something that should be emphasized by each student?
Over the past six years, the business services sector (shared service centers) has been expanding rapidly in Lithuania. Currently, 90 such centers are operating in Lithuania, mainly in Vilnius and Kaunas, with 23.147 employees. Accounting and finance are the dominant competencies and such incoming companies as Danske bank; Western Union etc shape the demand for them. It is the companies investing in service centers in Lithuania that create the demand for study programs that meet the content of Global Professional Networks. KTU SEB was the first School to offer the Accounting and auditing program accredited by ACCA. Even though in Lithuania, about 56% of the 25-34-year-old population has higher education and 85% of young professionals speak fluent English, young people studying in Lithuania lack the ambition of an international career. This is also typical in the financial profession. I think that platforms for international internships, and maybe even a mandatory requirement to have international experience in qualifications, would affect both the attractiveness of global professional networks and the internationality of the profession.
4. The profession of a finance professional is rapidly changing. ACCA is doing everything possible to ensure that our graduates are ready for the new professional world. How fast do you think the requirements for specialists will be changing in the next 5 years?
I am constantly observing the research and reports that ACCA publishes, so I can say that the organization is doing a lot to keep accounting and finance professionals up to date with the new demands of the profession. I would think that the fundamental shift in the profession is from technical work to the application of technology; from finance functions to partnership in the management team; from jobs to personal meaningful experiences at work. Ethical principles and social skills are more important than ever. I would say even bolder – the rules for the world we will have to live in are not written yet. And I think the role of financial professionals is really important.
5. How do you see your mission during the recession of the global economy?
Today's context to which businesses and society must adapt is not only related to the recession of the global economy. The pandemic has left a trail of demand and opportunities for remote work; war and energy challenges require rethinking the principles of international relations between countries and cooperation. It's all about change – the ability to decode the environment and react quickly.
Today, observing decisions at various levels from the highest level of politics to micro-level decisions in businesses, I miss the systemic awareness of the situation and change leadership. KTU SEB's mission is coded with the following motto: Inspire the lead to the changes. This message at the School level is converted into 5 graduate competencies that we expect to develop in our programs, including Accounting and Auditing – Cutting-edge knowledge; Strategic thinking; Critical thinking; Entrepreneurship; Influence leadership. We intend to develop these competencies through the didactics of study modules – tasks and their evaluation methods and the creation of specific contexts – hands-on interdisciplinary projects. It is equally important to measure these competencies. From 2022, testing of knowledge and competencies at the beginning and end of studies started.
6. In your opinion, in 5-10 years, will there be higher education as such, or will students master only desired and necessary disciplines and immediately put them into practice?
I think it would be naive to expect things to stay the same. The context now is such that not changing is simply not possible. I agree that in the perspective of lifelong learning, the rapid addition of knowledge and skills as needed is important. Upskilling is a popular term used in various discourses. On the other hand, if we are talking about training a specialist from scratch, for example, school graduates; I doubt that this path is sustainable. I believe that questioning the value of knowledge and skills certification (diplomas) as well as the role of technology is overemphasized. I agree with the flexible journey of students, where they may choose which disciplines to study, and the value of the practical application of knowledge. But I think there are two things that technology just won't change. University study programs are like a system that consistently connects knowledge and skills to a chain, and this is based on certain practices. Do the students really know in what sequence it should be connected? Who will be the mentor who will show the bigger picture? I think the lack of understanding of the system, its causes, and its consequences is the biggest problem of this age. Another, no less important, issue is the question of who will add ethical, moral, and humane principles to machine algorithms. I would dare to say that in this age of technological change, the most important content is non-technological because it changes too quickly. The ability to learn and adapt, social skills, teamwork, working in interdisciplinary teams, the ability to communicate with others, and diversity management are essential.
In conclusion, this interview has provided valuable insights into the candidate's qualifications and experiences. It is evident that the candidate possesses the necessary skills, knowledge, and passion for the job. Their responses were thoughtful, and articulate, and demonstrated their ability to think critically and communicate effectively. Overall, the candidate appears to be a strong fit for the position and would be an asset to any team.