Critical Perspectives on Accounting

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Critical Perspectives on Accounting
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Module:                                               Critical Perspectives on Accounting

Module Co-ordinator:                          Matthias Hambach

Assessment:                                       Open

Word count:                                        4500 words

Release:                                               Autumn Week 4

Submission:                                        11am, Monday 11th January 2021

Weighting                                            100%


Important information.


A penalty of FIVE marks will be deducted for late submissions that are made up to and including the first hour of the deadline. Submissions that are more than one hour late but within the first 24 hours of the deadline will incur a penalty of TEN marks. After the first 24 hours have passed, 10 marks will be deducted for every 24 hours (or part thereof) that the submission is late for a total of 5 days. After 5 days it is treated as a non-submission and given a mark of zero. The consequences of non-submission are serious and can include de-registration from the University.


If you are unable to complete your open assessment by the submission date indicated above because of Exceptional Circumstances you can apply for an extension. If unforeseeable and exceptional circumstances do occur, you must seek support and provide evidence as soon as possible at the time of the occurrence. Applications must be made before the deadline to be considered.


Full details of the Exceptional Circumstances Policy and claim form can be found here:


If you submit your open assessment on time but feel that your performance has been affected by Exceptional Circumstances you may submit an Exceptional Circumstances Affecting Assessment claim form by Noon, [7 days from the published assessment submission deadline]. If you do not submit by the deadline indicated without good reason your claim will not be considered.


Please take proper precautions to safeguard your work and remember to make backup copies of your data. The University provides all its students with storage space on the University server and you should save and back up any work in progress on this server on a regular basis. Computer failure and theft of your equipment or storage media are not considered exceptional circumstances and extensions cannot be granted for work lost for these reasons.

Word count requirements


  • The word count for this assignment is 4,500. Each part, (a), (b) and (c) carries an equal word count of 1,500.


  • You must state on the front of your assignment the number of words used and this will be checked.


  • The main text for this assignment must be word-processed in Times New Roman, Font 12, double spacing, minimum 2cm margins all around.


  • You must observe the word count specified in this assignment brief. The School has a policy of accepting variations to the recommended word count of plus or minus 10%.


What does this mean for you?


Markers will mark your work up to the word count maximum plus 10% and then will stop marking; therefore all words which are in excess of the word count plus 10% will not be marked.


Where your word count is more than 10% below that specified, it is likely that this will result in a lack of analytical depth or relevant content which will be reflected in the mark assigned.


What is in the word count?

The word count includes:

  • the main text, including in-text reference citations and quotations.

The word count does not include:

– Appendices. These may be used to include supporting data which may be too detailed or complex to include as a Table. They are not a device to incorporate material which would otherwise cause you to exceed the word limit.

– Title page

– Contents page

– Abstract/executive summary

– Tables, figures, legends

– Reference lists

– Acknowledgements

Question (a)


The traditional role of corporations in society has been to provide employment, goods and services within limited geographical areas.  Furthermore, it can be inferred from Tricker (2011) that accountability to financial stakeholders is provided through annual financial reports, whereas non-financial stakeholders traditionally have had only limited expectations of corporate accountability.


Following Tricker’s argument, globalisation and economic liberalisation have however shifted power from nation states to increasingly large multinational corporations. In this context, using examples and theory, critically evaluate whether non-financial performance measurement provides relevant information to stakeholders.

[1500 Words]


End of Assessment Question



  • In your essay you need to consider if non-financial performance measurement is useful or not to a range of stakeholders. Thus, you need to provide arguments in favour of your position.
  • You need to define your understanding of corporate accountability. You may want to refer to Gray, Adams & Owen (2014).
  • A consideration of a relevant example within at least one argument is requested. This should be compared to the theory.
  • Your answer should include a reflection on a relevant theory discussed during the module within one argument. You do not need to include all theories.
  • There is no fixed answer expected of “they do benefit” or “they do not benefit”; instead, the quality of your argument and how you use relevant references are key.
  • The essay should consist of three arguments. One must be in favour of your stated position. One argument must be arguing against your stated position (counterargument).  The third argument should be in favour of your stated position and argue against the second argument.


Indicative References (not exhaustive- please note that you are expected to read beyond these references):

Carol A. Adams & Dave Owen (eds.) (2014) Seeking the Holy Grail: towards the triple bottom line and/or sustainability? In: Accountability, social responsibility and sustainability : accounting for society and the environment /. Harlow, England :, Pearson,. p. xx, 339 pages :

Jeffrey Unerman (ed.) (2011a) Extended systems of accounting: The incorporation of social and environmental factors within external reporting. In: Financial accounting theory /. 2nd European edition. London :, McGraw-Hill. pp. 417–429.

Milne, M.J. & Gray, R. (2012) W(h)ither Ecology? The Triple Bottom Line, the Global Reporting Initiative, and Corporate Sustainability Reporting. Journal of Business Ethics. [Online] 118 (1), 1–17. Available from: doi:10.1007/s10551-012-1543-8.

Tricker, B. (2011). Re-inventing the Limited Liability Company. Corporate Governance: An International Review, 19(4), 384–393.


Question (b) Begins on Next Page

Question (b)


Traditional investment approaches build on the neoclassical paradigm of the efficient market hypothesis and portfolio theory; use narrow measures of performance based on market metrics and rely on long investment chains. These traditional approaches can lead to self-interest and to short-termism in investment practice. Supporters of responsible investing argue that finance decision makers and investors have an important role in the sustainability of societies and that sustainable investing can be achieved through an active investment approach.

With reference to the literature discuss the above statement elaborating on the main differences between traditional and sustainable investment approaches and discussing whether sustainable investing necessarily means lower returns.

[1500 Words]

End of Assessment Question



  • The essay should contrast the main differences between traditional investment theories and sustainable active investment principles which advocate shareholders and investors’ engagement.
  • Arguments should be strongly evidenced with literature and in some cases illustrated with examples (You can, for example, provide evidence of self interest in finance and accounting practice).
  • The essay should also critically discuss some of the literature analysing performance of sustainable investments and the reasons presented in the literature for that performance.

Indicative References (not exhaustive- please note that you are expected to read beyond these references):

Eccles, Kastrapeli and Potter (2017). How to Integrate ESG into Investment Decision Making: results of a global survey of Institutional Investors. Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, 29, pp. 112-23

Lo, A. (2004) “The adaptive Market Hypothesis: Market Efficiency from an Evolutionary Perspective” Journal of Portfolio Management, 30, pp. 15-29

Louche, C and Lydenberg, S 2010 Responsible Investing in Boatright, J R 2 Finance Ethics Critical Issues in Theory and Practice. John Wiley and sons

Renneboog, L., Ter Horst, J. and Zhang, C., 2008a. The price of ethics and stakeholder governance: The performance of socially responsible mutual funds. Journal of corporate finance14(3), pp.302-322.

Renneboog, L., Ter Horst, J. and Zhang, C., 2008b. Socially responsible investments: Institutional aspects, performance, and investor behavior. Journal of banking & finance32(9), pp.1723-1742.

Schoenmaker, D. and Schramade, W., 2018. Principles of Sustainable Finance. Oxford University Press.

Question (c) Begins on Next Page

Question (c)


How well do A) ordinary people and B) corporate executives conform to the way neo-classical economic theory would expect them to behave?

[1500 Words]

End of Assessment question



  • You first need to define your understanding of what neo-classical economics would expect to happen, starting off with John Stuart Mills’ homo economicus
  • There are many areas from the Behavioural Finance part of CPA that you could cover. Not all are expected to appear in an ideal answer, but make sure you spend time on both areas of ordinary people and corporate executives
  • There is no fixed answer expected of “they conform well” or “badly” for either group; instead, the quality of your argument and how you use relevant references are key.


Indicative References (not exhaustive- please note that you are expected to read beyond these references):


Ackert, L.F., Church, B.K. and Davis, S. (2006), Social distance and reciprocity, Experimental Economics Center Working Paper Series 2006-27, Experimental Economics Center, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University

Ackert, L.F. & Deaves, R.  (2009), Behavioral Finance: Psychology, Decision Making and Markets,         South-Western

Azar, O.H. (2007), The social norm of tipping: A review, Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37(2), 380-402

Asch, S. (1955), Opinions and social pressure, Scientific American, 193(5), 31-35

Cooper, M.J, Dimitrov, O. and Rau, P.R. (2001), A by any other name, The Journal of Finance, 56(6), 2371-2388

Fama, E.F. and French, K.R. (2001), Disappearing dividends: changing firm characteristics or lower propensity to pay?, Journal of Financial Economics, 60(1), 3-43

Mill, J. S. (1874), Essays on some unsettled questions of political economy, 2nd ed.

Travers, J. and Milgram, S. (1969) An Experimental Study of the Small World Problem, Sociometry, 32, 425-443



Additional Assessment Guidance Begins on Next Page

Assessment Formatting Guidance:


  • Follow Harvard referencing system
  • Include section headings and page numbers
  • Follow formatting guidelines set out above
  • Do not use lecture slides, Wikipedia or Investopedia (or similar) as sources.
  • Use simple, neutral language to express yourself. No need to use sophisticated words.
  • Paragraphs should never be longer than 1 page (and even that is long). Guide on paragraphing can be found here.
  • The introduction of your essay needs an argument statement. You can use this as a start: “This essay argues that …”
  • The introduction should not be longer than 1 page.
  • Do not use the Synonyms feature of MS Word. It is usually not providing good suggestions.
  • Carefully proofread your essay before submitting to avoid obvious mistakes. Please use spell check.
  • Familiarise yourself with the assessment criteria attached below.
  • To provide sufficient depth of analysis more than 40 references for the whole assignment are advised, which should include a fair amount of academic sources. This should allow you to pass barring any serious mistakes such as not answering the question, plagiarism, etc.
  • If you attended any pre-sessional courses, use your essay feedback from these in order to try and avoid past mistakes.
  • The skills classes provided alongside this module help you in constructing a better essay.





Student number: Module title: Critical Perspectives on Accounting
Generic criteria Module specific learning outcomes


Presentation S1 Identify some of the limitations of traditional financial reporting practice.
G2 Theory and literature review S2 Critically evaluate practical and theoretical initiatives in a specific area e.g. social and environmental accounting.
G3 Analysis and problem solving S3 Critically analyse the political nature of accounting.
G4 Structure and argument S4  
G5 Conclusions S5  
G6 Correctness of referencing S6  

Comments on assessment criteria





Suggestions for improvement

Date: Marker:



Generic Assessment Marking Criteria

You will be marked according to five criteria:

  • Quality of Presentation
  • Understanding and use of Theory
  • Quality of Analysis
  • Structure and Argument
  • Conclusions


The examiners will be looking for the following elements for each of these criteria.




  • All material is thoroughly and correctly referenced.
  • Citations are given in the Harvard format, unless specifically specified otherwise in the assignment brief.
  • Direct quotations from sources are referenced with page numbers.
  • Appropriate use has been made of tables, diagrams, graphs and pictures.
  • The use of formatting (line spacing, font, justified margins etc.) is consistent throughout.
  • The text is clear and readable, without typographic errors and spelling mistakes.
  • The assignment is within the maximum word length suggested.
  • The bibliography contains only the works cited in the assignment, is presented in author alphabetical order and is complete, accurate, and consistently formatted.




  • Evidence of wider reading i.e. not relying on a textbook or single text source, but engaging with specialist texts, journal articles and reports.
  • A demonstration of an understanding and awareness of a range of theoretical positions or technical options.
  • The ability to place a particular text’s argument within a range of positions evident in the literature and to recognise its strengths and limitations as an explanatory framework.
  • Direct quotes, paraphrasing or other evidence of active engagement with theory and/or technique is apparent throughout the assignment.




  • The assignment demonstrates an ability to understand different perspectives i.e. the student can evaluate different options, engage critically with theory and practice and can justify their analysis above other available solutions or viewpoints.
  • The analysis results from the use of judgement and discernment in selecting theory and applying it to the situation or problem.
  • The selection of techniques and viewpoints are justified by the problem or issue outlined.
  • Reflection and observation are integrated in the analysis in an appropriate way i.e. a supported argument illustrated with observation rather than a statement of opinion.


Structure and Argument


  • An essay assignment will normally include an introduction, several sub-titled sections in the main body, a conclusion and a bibliography. Alternative formats may be specified by the assignment brief and, if so, have been used.
  • A coherent argument is evident, which clearly links the different elements of the assignment together and leads the reader through to a justifiable conclusion.
  • The argument is logically constructed with each section building on the insights of preceding sections i.e. different perspectives are not simply thrown together without an understanding of how they contribute to the overall argument presented.
  • Theory is integrated into the analytical and/or practical elements of the assignment where appropriate
  • Meaning is not obscured by poor grammar, paragraph or sentence construction.




  • The conclusion summarises the whole of the assignment and not just the analysis i.e. conclusions relate questions posed, adequacy of the theory, empirical issues explored and reflect on the student’s approach to the work.
  • The conclusions refer to the argument presented to that point and do not introduce new ideas or arguments “at the last moment”.
  • The conclusion demonstrates the ability of the student to justify their theoretical and analytical approach.
  • Conclusions have been drawn and follow, and are justified by, the analysis in the main body of the assignment. Where required, practical recommendations are feasible and follow on from the conclusions, addressing the issues identified.



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