“The accountancy degree program requires integration and differentiation”

February 29 2024

Long gone are the days when accountancy was solely about financial reporting. Themes such as sustainability, fraud detection and cybersecurity are also coming to the fore. This requires adjustments in the degree program, as Prof. Dr. Ruud Vergoossen RA asserted on Feb. 29 in his emeritus speech.

When he started working as an assistant accountant while studying economics, Vergoossen found his job rather boring. That changed when he started working towards his doctorate and found out how much he enjoyed figuring things out and reporting on them. His supervisor managed to convince him to complete his accountancy studies anyway, and so it happened. Now, Vergoossen has had a lengthy career in the accounting practice and has long been a Full Professor of Corporate Reporting at Nyenrode Business University. His emeritus speech included a plea for program redesign, to future-proof the accountancy degree program.

Room for specialization

"Accountants get more and more work to do. Whereas it used to be mainly about financial accounting, topics such as fraud detection, sustainability, ethical issues, corporate governance and cybersecurity have now been added to the mix," Vergoossen says. "Moreover, there is a mismatch between the theoretical part and the practical part of the accountancy degree program, causing students to perceive the accountancy program as less and less attractive and studyable. As a result, intake declines and students drop out early." Vergoossen therefore advocates intensive cooperation between the seven universities with an accountancy program. They should offer an inter-university postgraduate professional program, in which theory and practice are fully intertwined, with differentiation by specialties within it. "I think requiring a single person to master the total body of knowledge and skills needed to perform the work is no longer tenable. Currently, the various universities already work together in the Limperg Institute, but that collaboration is mainly focused on training PhD students. I think we need to broaden that horizon."

New forms of education

In November 2023, a report by the Quartermasters for the Future of the Accountancy Sector, appointed by the Minister of Finance (the ‘Kwartiermakers toekomst accountancysector’, KTA) was published. One of the recommendations in this report, and which Vergoossen supports, is to achieve a broadening of the intake into accountancy education. "I think students from a different bachelor’s degree program should also be able to enroll in an accountancy master's degree program. Like business administration, general economics or even psychology, for example. Given the need for more diversity within the accountancy profession in terms of knowledge, expertise and skills, perhaps we should even favor that." There is also room for improvement when it comes to forms of education, according to Vergoossen. "I’m referring to things like applying blended learning or the flipped classroom, where students study new concepts at home and then work on them during seminars under the guidance of a lecturer. We also need to take into account the influence of artificial intelligence and figure out how to integrate it in education."


The aforementioned report by the KTA focuses on the full breadth of accountancy, i.e. both registered accountants (RAs) who perform statutory financial statements audits and accountant-advisers (AAs) who do not. For example, the KTA advise the Royal Netherlands Professional Association of Accountants (the ‘Koninklijke Nederlandse Beroepsorganisatie van Accountants’, NBA) to speed up the recalibration of these two existing professional profiles (RA and AA). Vergoossen has very different ideas about that. “Why subject accountants who are not performing or allowed to perform statutory duties to auditing legislation?" Vergoossen therefore advocates the creation of a public-law professional organization whose members are exclusively accountants who perform statutory duties.


With his emeritus speech, Vergoossen concludes an important phase of his life. A good time to take stock. "I have been a member of six different organizations during my academic career, for the most part of two or three at a time.  When I reflect on where I felt most at home, the Royal Netherlands Institute of Registered Accountants (the ‘Koninklijk Nederlands Instituut van Registeraccountants’, NIVRA, the predecessor of the NBA) and Nyenrode take center stage. Then I look at things like the nature of the work, the work environment, the work location and the freedom enjoyed, for example." Fun fact: Vergoossen was once about to take a completely different career path. "Writing is a passion of mine, and that led me to have a side job as a reporter at the Limburgs Dagblad (the Daily Mail of Limburg) in my student days. Although life as a journalist did appeal to me at the time, after some hesitation I turned down the offer to work full-time at this newspaper. Still, I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t."



March 1 2024
Emeritaat Ruud Vergoossen
Emeritaat Ruud Vergoossen

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