An examination of the moral reasoning abilities of Cypriot accounting students

Author: Maz Demosthenous

  • Thesis download: available for open access on 23 May 2021.

Demosthenous, Maz, 2018 An examination of the moral reasoning abilities of Cypriot accounting students, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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The business world and in particular, the accounting profession’s reputation has been tarnished in the media with recent corporate collapses and scandalous events involving accountants. In recent years fraudulent financial activities have increased leading to detrimental effects on economies globally. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (2016) it is estimated that fraud is costing businesses trillions of dollars. As a result of this wave of scandals and fraudulent activities there has been renewed calls for ethics education in the accounting profession and the moral judgment of accountants has been criticised (Byrne et al. 2002; Warinda 2013). The adequacy of accounting tertiary education in improving the moral reasoning and ethical behaviour of accounting students has been questioned and has become a topic of debate.

The purpose of this study is to explore/examine the moral reasoning abilities of the future accountants of Cyprus. More specifically, to investigate whether tertiary accounting and ethics education has a positive effect on the moral reasoning and development of Cypriot accounting students. The influences of gender, age and work experience on the moral reasoning levels of these students were also examined. In this study the Defining Issues Test (DIT) was used to assess the accounting students’ moral reasoning. The different year levels were compared for significant differences in their P scores (moral reasoning) as measured by the DIT.

The study found that the Cypriot accounting students exhibited an exceptionally high level of moral reasoning and therefore use post conventional level reasoning in their decision making as per Kohlberg’s theory (1969). Cypriot accounting students that have studied ethics used significantly higher level of moral reasoning than those students who have not studied ethics. In comparing the P scores of students from the different year levels there was a significant difference in the P scores and it was found that senior year students had significantly higher level moral reasoning than the first year students. These results suggest that tertiary accounting and ethics education has a positive effect on the moral reasoning and development of Cypriot students. It was also found that female accounting students are more ethically mature than their male counterparts as measured by the DIT and responded positively to an ethics course. Additionally, it was found that students who are employed or have work experience achieved significant higher P scores than the students that have never worked.

Keywords: Moral reasoning, ethical decision making, ethics and tertiary education, accounting students

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Professional Doctorate
Completed: 2018
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Ben Wadham