WHEN LEARNING MAY NOT BE THE GOAL: POSTGRADUATE ACCOUNTING STUDENTS IN AUSTRALIA
Australia has a higher percentage (25%) of international students undertaking higher education than any country in the world. Postgraduate education attracts the majority of international students, especially business education where 50% of students are from outside Australia, predominantly Asia. Students come to Australia for many and varied reasons, including the possibility of immigrating to Australia on completion of studies. Some programs of study are given higher priority for immigration than others and so are popular among those hoping to immigrate. In order to attract International students, Australian universities have developed programs of study that fit with the government’s immigration list for preferred occupations. The Master of Professional Accounting (MPA) is perhaps the most well known of these programs as the majority of its students are allegedly more interested in gaining Permanent Residency than becoming practicing accountants. Concerns over the quality of this program and its graduates and its impact on the reputation of Australian higher education have been expressed by a variety of stakeholders both in the media and in scholarly journals. However, little has been done to investigate the experiences and perceptions of the students themselves. The focus of our paper is to report the voice of the postgraduate accounting student so we may better understand their motivations, expectations and experiences and adapt our approaches to teaching and learning accordingly. The population of postgraduate accounting students and graduates from an Australian university were invited to respond to an anonymous questionnaire survey. The survey was adapted from the Australian Universities Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE) to allow comparison with faculty, university and sector wide results in relation to student experiences both in and outside the classroom and student engagement with learning and university life. Our paper provides a background to the program in the context of the Australian Higher Education System and reports the results of the research along with implications for teaching practice.