The accounting profession in Malaysia: Understanding prospective accountants’ professional trajectory

Abdul Aziz, Dalilah (2022) The accounting profession in Malaysia: Understanding prospective accountants’ professional trajectory. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines the lived experiences of prospective accountants from various social backgrounds as they transition to the accountancy profession in Malaysia. The context is known for its colonial legacies and developmental issues consistently expressed in ethnic political terms. In Malaysia, the Bumiputera¹, the largest ethnic group in the country, is overrepresented amongst the low-income population. The group is also underrepresented within the accountancy profession and even more so amongst highly regarded 'qualified accountants'².

The underrepresentation issue has also been observed amongst the majority population in other national contexts with colonial legacies. However, the literature is dominated by research with a macro-institutional focus. Kaifala et al. (2019) is one of the articles that shifts the unit of analysis from the accountancy profession to the professional accountant and examined how the accounting professionalisation in ex-colonies implicates the construction of professional accountants. This thesis contributes to this discussion.

In this thesis, I explore the reasons behind the underrepresentation phenomenon by looking into the lived experiences of prospective accountants to focus on three major issues; (1) How do prospective accountants from different social backgrounds envisage their professional trajectory? (2) How do prospective accountants' higher education experience shape their professional trajectory? (3) How do prospective accountants from different social backgrounds experience graduate to work transitions in the Big4 field, and how does it shape their professional trajectory?

From a theoretical perspective, this thesis draws on the Bourdieusian triad of habitus, capitals, and field along with his less-used concepts – illusio and gravity, to reflect on the emergence of prospective accountants’ life paths, transitions and career trajectories.

Fieldwork and interviews were conducted with 100 participants—71 prospective accountants and 29 with accounting education and profession representatives. The participants include partners of accounting firms, regulators, recruiters, and academics familiar with the profession's development. Using primarily in-depth semi-structured interviews, rich descriptions and reflections of the participants' subjective lived experiences at various stages of their professional journey were collected.

This study postulates that prospective accountants accumulate strong perceptions and ingrained cultural assumptions through their ethnic-infused journey. The prospective accountants' predispositions, in turn, produce a practice that influences how they deal with career possibilities and how they transition to the profession—at times, leading them towards seemingly less 'prestigious' career decisions.

The findings also contribute to the exploration of possible reasons behind underrepresentation issues experienced by the majority population within a postcolonial context and suggest practical implications aimed at transforming the demographic landscape of the Malaysian accounting profession.

¹ The citizens of Malaysia consist of three main groups namely Bumiputera (69.6 percent), Chinese (22.6 percent) and Indians (6.9 percent) (Department of Statistics, 2020). The remaining 0.9 percent represents other minority groups in Malaysia.

² It is estimated that Bumiputera makes up only eight percent of accountants who have completed certified professional examinations such as ICAEW, MICPA or ACCA and are registered with the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Supported by funding from the UniKL Business School and the Adam Smith Business School.
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School
Supervisor's Name: Stoner, Professor Greg and Favotto, Dr. Alvise
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-82923
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2022 10:42
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2022 10:43
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82923

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