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Research Overview


The School of Accountancy recognises the importance of ongoing research to maintaining its leadership position in the industry. Research contributes to new knowledge and the application of existing knowledge to new circumstances – it strengthens our teaching and ensures that our students have access to the latest and most relevant thinking in the field of accountancy.

We aspire to be a rising research star in the firmament of schools of accountancy in South Africa. An active research programme is in place through which staff interact with large audit and financial enterprises to produce insightful, relevant research that makes a meaningful contribution to the field.

School of Accountancy Research Projects

1. The Analysis of Student Performance: Differential pass rates of black students

The school has been actively involved in a long term research project that is investigating cultural variables that influence performance. The research project was initiated by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) who were concerned that black students perform 20% worse than white students in the qualifying examination. The School of Accountancy was selected to co-ordinate this project which involves collecting and analysing 10 years of data from each of the accredited (SAICA) universities in South Africa. This research will analyse data that includes variables like matriculation performance in English and mathematics, performance in the final year at the institution, throughput time, home language, school type, mother tongue, province, university involved, employee (trainee program). This analysis has been supported by additional research conducted at Wits that investigates the impact of cultural dimensions (Hofstede, 1986) on student performance in different types of tests. The research was prompted by the call for more ‘African’ research problems to be investigated, as well as the criticism that our institutions teaching and learning programs remain ‘western based’.

Research Co-ordinator: Professor Kurt Sartorius

Status: Ongoing

2. An investigation of the dynamics of rural poverty and rural household stability

This project involves the collaboration of the Schools of Accountancy and Public Health (Professor Stephen Tollman). The research utilises the Agincourt database which is a sub district in rural Mpumalanga. The objective of the research is to investigate the dynamics of rural poverty and household instability in order to promote the success of rural development initiatives (a key government thrust), as well as stabilise rural populations and reduce urban migration.

Research Co-ordinator: Professor Kurt Sartorius

Status: Resubmission to Development and Change and submission to Population, Space and Place (see Research Publication List for details)

3. An investigation into cultural variables and their impact on management practices in a developing country

This study investigated the relationship between cultural variables in a Mozambican multinational (Mosal Aluminium) and the suitability of the ‘western based’ human resource management practices of the company. This area of research also investigated the relationship between a range of other variables and their impact on job satisfaction. The research is vitally important for the modification of human resource management programs with respect to multinationals investing in Sub Saharan Africa. The results indicated that the local employees felt alienated by the firms prior HRM practices and as a result of this embarked on a strike. The company took cognisance of the grievances and engaged specialists to amend their HRM practices (International Journal of Human Resource Management, 2011 Forthcoming June edition). The results of this research project also showed that a series of ‘humanism’ variables significantly influenced job satisfaction (Development Southern Africa, 2011, Vol. 32 Forthcoming June).

Project Co-ordinator: Professor Kurt Sartorius and Andres Merino DeLaNuez

4. Performance Evaluation of the SETA Sector

The school was engaged by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) to evaluate the efficiency of the performance of South African Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETA’ s), which has been increasingly questioned. On this premise, the paper investigated the efficiency of the 23 SETA’ s with respect to their utilisation of funds. Data were obtained from the published accounting and annual reports for the period 2005 – 2008. The results indicated only two of the SETA’ s were efficient with respect to their utilisation of funds and that only five SETA’ s consistently met their own targets. The study also shows that if the SETA funds had been applied to education and training outputs, rather than for investment purposes, training outputs could have been considerably increased. The paper (Accountancy SA) has implications for the use of public funds with respect to the critical skills shortage confronting the economy.

Project Co-ordinator: Mrs Magda Turner, Professors Abdel Halabi and Kurt Sartorius

5. Detection of Earnings Management Irregularities

A senior staff member is currently investigating earnings management (earnings manipulation) in listed JSE companies. This research involves the development of new techniques to identify companies that are manipulating their annual returns. This research also investigates a range of predictors (like deferred tax) for earnings management.

Project Co-ordinator: Prof E Rabin