H.T. Chan, S. Ryan

The University of Newcastle (AUSTRALIA)
Australia, like Canada, had and still has a shortage of professional accountants but both countries have a surplus of immigrants who are qualified accountants. In the case of Australia, these potential immigrants were full-fee paying graduates from Australian universities attracted by university marketing to the lure of easy immigration through postgraduate accounting courses. The issue has been the subject of both media attention and scholarly research, the former of which focus on immigration issues and the latter on the causes of the problem. Most research centres around student and program shortcomings such as: poor English language proficiency; absence of desirable graduate attributes; lack of work experience; inappropriate motivation to undertake accountancy programs; and inappropriate teaching and assessment. Our previous research has confirmed the weaknesses in teaching and assessment and issues with language ability, however the question of employability remains elusive given not all international graduates are lacking in the necessary attributes, language and work experience. Although there is sufficient evidence of an expectation gap between students, academics and employers in relation to the employability of these graduates, there is very little detailed research into the barriers to employment for international accounting graduates. Thus the aim of this paper is to explore the perspectives of students, accounting academics and representatives of the professional accounting bodies on the vexed issue of barriers to employment for international students from predominantly Asian countries. We do this through reporting on qualitative data from interviews and focus groups with students, accounting educators and professional bodies about why there might be a shortage of practicing accountants when there is a surplus of qualified (international) graduates. Possible explanations lie on a continuum from unrealistic immigration processes, to unfortunate recruitment timings to conservatism verging on racism within the profession of accounting. The contribution of the paper lies in addressing an issue that lies, like an elephant in the room, in immigration policy and accounting schools throughout Australia. The paper reports the results of the research and details implications for Australian higher education, accounting schools and the accounting profession.