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Presentation by Gwenaelle Nogatchewski

We carried out an original experiment last September in the masters. Indeed, for their first week, the students did a four-day workshop that was intended to associate arts and accounting. I mean here accounting as a discipline in a broad sense that incorporates accounting, control and audit.

Why a creative workshop for accounting students ?

First, I would like to say a few words about this masters. It was created in 1990 by a very famous French Professor, Bernard Colasse. It was the only French research masters in accounting, control and audit. In 2011, I took over the direction of the masters and after a while Paris-Dauphine University asked me to open a professional path. Since 2014, we have a research and a professional path.

Therefore, the students do not have the same expectations and come from very heterogeneous institutions. 25% come from Paris Dauphine University, 15% from one of the most famous French university called « Ecole Normale Supérieure », some from middle universities, some come from China, Russia, Tunisia, Canada, etc.  After this masters, 80% embrace a career in internal or management control in firms or in financial auditing in audit firms. 20% pursue in a PHD program.

The identity of the masters when I took over its direction was focused on research. I wanted to keep the research focus, but I also had to stress professional skills. Besides, given the heterogeneity of the students I wanted also to create a cohesive group.

Moreover, when I took the direction of the masters, I read the Brussels directive on masters degrees and its focus on the training by research. Until the 1st year of the masters, the students learn the techniques. As far as the accounting master is concerned, the techniques deal with budgeting, cost accounting, methods of audit, etc. the students acquire a first level of skills that enable them to execute and replicate what they have learnt. The 2d year of the masters has to give the students a second level of skills : the ability to criticise, propose solutions, communicate, manage projects, etc.  

The training by research points to the second level of skills. Different means can be considered: the research essay is the most common. Theoretical courses and research seminars are also widespread. I thought of another way of promoting this second level of skills that could take place at the beginning of the academic year (I mean September), and that could create a cohesion of the group : a creative workshop…

The creative workshop could pursue my different goals :

First, I wanted the students to think about accounting beyond techniques : to question the construction of figures, the meanings and their representations of the models and accounting standards.

Second, I wanted the students to be able to sustain a project in an unforseen context. In accounting and control, we usually ask students to work on case studies. They have to calculate costs, to elaborate budgets from a statement. They have to deliver the solution the teacher expects. But in real life, there is often no good solution and the way to find an acceptable one is unpredictable. I thought this workshop was a good training for it.

Third, I wanted to create a cohesive group from the beginning of the year. As I said before, students came from various more or less famous universities. Thanks to the workshop, they were, for the first day of their academic year, all novices. Actually the first day some of them were very very surprised by the workshop. I had told them they would follow a 4-day-artistic work shop called “creative accounting”. In fact, I had called it “creative accounting” to do a play on words. Indeed, creative accounting is a practise that intends to follow the standard accounting practices but to deviate from the spirits of the rules. As far as I was concerned, It was clear that it was an artistic workshop. But some students were so far from thinking about artistic creativity that they came with books on creative accounting, convinced that they would have a 4-day lesson about it. Imagine how confused they were when I presented the artistic workshop and when I introduced Philippe.

Indeed, in order to work, this workshop needed to be headed by a double-hat person who knew accounting as a discipline and who was able to lead students in an artistic way. This rare pearl was Philippe.

 

CONCLUSION

In the end, goals were achieved and even surpassed despite the reluctance of the students the first day.

First, after 4 days of hell, students actually were very proud of themselves and a real cohesion emerged among them. All of them said it was an adventure to experience.

Second, they changed the manner with which they considered their discipline and they were ready to embrace the theoretical courses that were about to follow the workshop.

Third, they learnt how to be rigorous in another way from what they are used to. Auditing and accounting practise demands much rigour. And I was surprised that some were lacking it, considering contemporary art as a matter of impulse. The third and the fourth day, they were very surprised to see that Philippe wanted to get the better of them and wanted things to be done properly. He was very demanding. So too will their managers be in a couple of months. The workshop was good preparation for them.

So this was definitely a good experience we are about to renew in September.