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AC.F318: Professional Ethics


Department: Accounting and Finance NCF Level: FHEQ/QCF/NQF6//RQF6
Study Level: Part II (final year) Credit Points: 15.0
Start Date: 15-01-2018 End Date: 27-04-2018
Available for Online Enrolment?: Y Enrolment Restriction: Fully available to all students
Module Convenor: Dr CJ Ford

Curriculum Design: Outline Syllabus

  •  

    Multiple scandals reported in the press over the past decade have highlighted the ever-increasing role of professional ethics and ethical management practices in everyday business life.  Whether it is decisions about tax policy, community engagement, social reporting or compliance with regulations and best practice – ethics is now firmly embedded in every aspect of professional work.  This is, perhaps, why the major accounting institutes now incorporate ethical development into so many elements of their education programme.

    This course has been designed to give students a deep and comprehensive understanding of ethics in everyday life, in business life, and in the working life of a financial professional.  Starting from the very core of ethical theories and some of the more entertaining studies (would you, or would you not, push the fat criminal off the bridge to save five other people?) we build an understanding of what ethics is, that we then weave through the rest of the course.  In this way we bring to life the principles based ethics approach of financial bodies today, the ways codes of conduct are designed and used, and the choices organisations make about how they account for their ethical activities to diverse stakeholder groups and ethically minded investors.

    This course also aims to develop a range of other skills that are fundamental to student employability, and to future success in many chosen careers:  you will develop your team-working skills teams, both online and offline, as part of the seminar activities; in these small groups you will learn presentation skills, problem solving skills and argument skills as you prepare for weekly, competitive debates; and your coursework assignment (which is an individual piece of work) will put your improved analytical skills to work on a real-life case study of ethics in an organisation.

    Note that this course is entirely qualitative, the assessment and the exams require good standards of written communication, and so do the weekly tutorial activities.  Both the course tutor and the LUMS education support team can help you to refine your language skills as you go through the module, but there is limited time for this so you must come prepared for this type of study and assessment.

    • Ethical theories and their relevance to every day decision making, business management, and the creation of ethical codes of practice for the accounting and other professions
    • Ethical management in business - the balancing of stakeholder views and the use of a stakeholder approach when determining activites and reporting
    • Corporate Responsibility, how it is understood, enacted and reported
    • The role that governance plays in the management of a business, the evolution of good governance practice, and the development of codes of conduct
    • The nature of professional ethics and its significnance in the business environment.
    • National and international ethical issues and their impact on codes, standards, governance and financial decision making (focusiing on topical issues such as taxation and the role of accountants)
    • Content of professional ethics codes - ICAS, CFA and IoD
    • Content of regulatory governance framework
    • Important ethics related regulations covering whistleblowing, bribery, and money laundering
  • 75% Exam
  • 25% Coursework

Assessment: Details of Assessment

  • The coursework assessment builds on the formative work carried out in each tutorial, as students develop their ethical analysis skills and are able to apply them to increasingly challenging, business oriented situations.  In addition, the development of group working, group analysis and collective idea shaping skills through the tutorials prepares the students for the assignment process and the expectation that their coursework assignment will be continually refined and improved through stages of review and feedback, up until the ideas are well shaped and it then becomes an important individual task to turn those ideas into a strong argument, well delivered, and will compelling conclusions and discussion.

    The examination will incorporate a single significant question (40% of marks) at the start that will be compulasory, and will take the form of a mini case study looking at a mixture of topics covered in the reoprt.  Since the coursework assignment will most likely have focussed on topics covered earlier in the course, the emphasis in the exam will be the later materials, in particular social accounting, reporting standards, legislastion/regulations, governance and codes of practice from the professional bodies.

Educational Aims: Subject Specific: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

    • Give students a comprehensive understanding of core ethical theories and how they underpin the ethical codes of practice for individuals, organisations and professional bodies

    • Develop students’ knowledge of the multiple forms that codes of conduct can take and how their legal status, level of operation and ways of influencing professional behaviour can vary

    • Equip students with the skills to analyse, interpret and construct a stakeholder view of corporate social responsibility activities within an organisation

    • Give students an understanding of social reporting, triple bottom line accounting and the multiple regulatory and advisory bodies and stock market indices that are interested in such forms of reporting and corporate activity

    • Provide students with an insight into the historical development of corporate governance in the UK, and an understanding of how the Financial Reporting Council develop, use and enforce their ethical codes

    • Give students a good knowledge of the two most important codes of conduct relevant to financial professionals – published by the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), and by the Chartered Financial Analysts Institute (CFA).

     Note for non-accounting students:

    The specific study of the code of conduct for CFA can be replaced with self-study materials looking at the code of conduct for the Institute of Directors (IoD).  The IFAC code is compulsory for all students as it represents one of the most advanced and internationally accepted codes of conduct in existence for any profession, and therefore acts as a useful exemplar for any student who needs to understand any other codes, later in their professional life.

Educational Aims: General: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

  • The tutorial activities on this course have been carefully designed to develop a range of other key skills.  Each tutorial group is divided into smaller workgroups of 3-6 people to develop a presentation on a topic or issue that is deliberately too large for any one individual. 

    Guidance will be given on all aspects of this process, and it is important to note that these tutorial groups are a safe space in which even the least confident or able student can experiment, learn and improve the following career-critical skills: 

    • Communication and presentation.  Throughout the course you will develop your capabilities in presentation design, public speaking, argumentation and effective communication of both theoretical and practical ideas.

    • Groupworking and leadership.  Your tutor will help you to develop effective team working practices through the progressive design of the weekly tasks.  One group member will be acting as co-ordinator each week, as collective knowledge is built up within the group about effective leadership and management practices.

    • Theory-in-action.  Weekly tasks demand the analysis of real-world problems using a wide range of theories learnt through the course.  Students will gain significant experience of building theoretically robust yet practically relevant arguments.  These skills will carry forward into the coursework assignment.

    • Primary research.  Students will learn how to search for, select and critically analyse multiple sources of information in order to build their arguments for both the weekly tasks and the more significant coursework assignment. 

    • Report writing and analysis.  The development of effective subgroups through the tutorial activities creates a natural group that will then work together to collectively review and improve each other’s coursework.  Through small group, facilitated sessions you will develop critical reviewing skills and a deeper understanding of what creates a strong, well targeted, tightly argued and clearly articulated business report.

Learning Outcomes: Subject Specific: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

  • On completion of this course students should effectively be able to:

    • Analyse and understand any situation from the perspective of multiple ethical positions (Utilitarianism, Deontological Ethics, Virtue Ethics, Ethics of Rights, Natural Ethics, Ethical Egoism)

    • Identify, map, analyse and explain the role that different stakeholders play in influencing (or being influenced by) the ethical position of an organisation

    • Analyse and explain both the contents of any code of conduct, but also the nature and intent of the code, and its level of development

    • Understand and explain triple bottom line accounting and understand both the underlying principles of this form of accounting, and its relationship with global reporting standards and the UN Human Rights Compact

    • Understand and explain the development and impact of corporate governance regulations and best practice recommendations as they have developed in the UK, and relate these to the strategic resourcing activities of the firm (seeking sources of capital, labour etc.)

    • State and explain the underlying principles of the IFAC code of conduct, linking this to both its underlying ethical dimensions and the structured approach taken by the accounting profession worldwide to convert principles into actionable ethical activity

Learning Outcomes: General: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

  • In addition, in relation to the general educational aims of this course, the students should also achieve the following learning outcomes:

    • Improved confidence and competence when delivering both individual and group presentations to a small audience

    • Improved skills at constructing a compelling argument that blends logical, emotional and ethical content to ‘win over’ an audience

    • Be effective as both a team member and team leader on short-time-scale assignments, able to integrate work from multiple parties drawing on multiple sources

    • Be able to present ‘from knowledge’ instead of ‘from notes’, as your ability and confidence as a public speaker and presenter increase week by week

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