The professional field of accounting is evolving with all the other aspect of human life under the influence of continuous advancement. New requirements in the professional area and labour market necessitate relevant changes in the educational field so that the competencies, skills, and theoretical knowledge of graduates from accounting department provide the expected level of expertise adequate to the demand. Therefore, it is vital to assess the level capability of Saudi education in the sphere of accounting to meet the demands of the market. The current literature review is aimed at analysing the recent scholarly publications on the topic of accounting educational outputs’ suitability with the requirements of the labour market in Saudi Arabia. The scope of the review includes articles published between 2015 and 2020. The literature sources are reviewed from the perspective of their contribution to the topic and are discussed according to the common themes.
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The academic literature sources pay much attention to the quality of accounting graduates’ skills and the level of expertise in relation to the needs of the labour market in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Several studies identify that the skills students obtain during their studying at universities do not match the employers’ demands (Al Mallak, 2018; Ibeaheem, Elawady and Ragmoun, 2018; Zureigat, 2015). Moreover, some researchers argue that the inconsistencies between the supply and demand in the accounting labour market provoke an increased level of graduates’ unemployment (Ibeaheem, Elawady and Ragmoun, 2018; Senan, 2019). Indeed, employers’ attitudes and values continuously change, which leads to their prioritisation of particular generic skills.
The gap between the expected level of skills development in graduates and their actual level has been addressed by many researchers. Al Mallak (2018) found that accounting graduates’ competencies in intellectual, personal, business, communicational, and ethical domains are all equally important for employers but are not properly developed. The same findings were presented by Ibeaheem, Elawady and Ragmoun (2018), who claimed that such skills as “decision-making, self-control, the importance of work and communication” are most appreciated by organisations in accountants (p. 70). Similarly, Zureigat (2015) conducted a questionnaire, in which it was found that in accounting, employers most value critical thinking, problem- and decision-making, communication, and teamwork. These skills must be purposefully developed in students through training.
Apart from generic skills expected from accounting graduates, the analysed literature presents the discussion of profession-specific competencies that must be addressed in the educational setting. The contemporary accounting profession in Saudi Arabia undergoes qualitative changes toward the employment of international accounting standards within the framework of the overall state corporatism and accounting hybridisation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Alanzi, 2019; Albader, 2015; Herath and Alsulmi, 2017; Mihret, Alshareef and Bazhair, 2017). The study conducted by to Alanzi (2019) demonstrated that the application of international accounting standards in the work of Saudi enterprises provides opportunities for effective economic process measuring, improvement of the quality of accounting information, enterprise performance, and “internal control procedures” (Alanzi, 2019, p. 18). Importantly, Herath and Alsulmi (2017) identify Saudi accounting education as one of the key obstacles for the implementation of international standards to the Saudi economy. Indeed, the outputs of the contemporary educational institutions require systematic improvements because their current quality does not match the demand.
The researchers indicate that the overall current level of accounting education in the country is insufficient for the market requirements and introduce several reasons for such a tendency (Albader, 2015). Mihret, Alshareef and Bazhair (2017) approach this problem from a historical perspective, explaining that the professional accounting education incepted in Saudi Arabia in the late 1960-s. More specifically, the reasons for insufficient educational outputs are found in inadequate class sizes, curricula, time, and attention to skills development in universities (Al Mallak, 2018). Figure 1 retrieved from Al Mallak (2018) demonstrates the barriers to adequate accounting education in Saudi Arabia.
Therefore, the accountants who work in contemporary Saudi enterprises are expected to be capable of applying international accounting standards and international financial reporting standards in their work. Such evolving requirements of the market impose higher demands for students and universities. In the reviewed literature, the ways for solving the problem of the skills gap are introduced. For example, Shahid, Alexander and Abdalla (2018) have found that the launching of undergraduate programs for accountants according to the contemporary standards and matching the market demand are possible with the support of key stakeholders. Similarly, AlMotairy (2016) suggests that the development of adequate learning outcomes measuring system will induce students’ critical thinking and help prepare them to the realities of the professional environment.
In conclusion, as the conducted literature review demonstrates, the overall state of Saudi accounting education is at an insufficient level of development and is not suitable for the current market. The identified manifestations of the problem include inadequate training of generic skills and professional knowledge related to the implementation of international accounting and financial reporting standards. Researchers see the reasons for the situation in relatively young accounting education in the country, inadequate curricular, planning, and organisation of the educational process, and the lack of integration of market-informed educational programs. The solution is envisioned in the initiation of market-oriented curricular and accounting undergraduate programs for the development of specific skills. Overall, most of the literature sources provide data concerning the gap between the supply and demand in the accounting profession, but only a few suggest practical solutions. Therefore, further investigation of the research problem is required with the priority set on the search for a relevant solution that would be appropriate for the Saudi labour market environment.
Alanzi, I. D. F. (2019) ‘The impact of employing international accounting standards on improving monitoring & performance levels at Saudi enterprises’, Multi-Knowledge Electronic Comprehensive Journal For Education And Science Publications, 18, pp. 1-25
Albader, M. (2015) Transition to IFRS and its implications for accounting education in Saudi Arabia. PhD thesis. Victoria University.
Al Mallak, M.A. (2018) Generic skills in accounting education in Saudi Arabia. PhD thesis. Massey University.
AlMotairy, O.S. (2016) ‘Measuring the learning outcomes and critical thinking: the case of Saudi accounting students’, Journal of Accounting, 6(2), pp. 49-64.
Herath, S.K. and Alsulmi, F.H. (2017) International financial reporting standards (IFRS): the benefits, obstacles, and opportunities for implementation in Saudi Arabia’, International Journal of Social Science and Business, 2(1), pp. 1-18.
Ibeaheem, H. A., Elawady, S. and Ragmoun, W. (2018) ‘Saudi universities and higher education skills on Saudi Arabia’, International Journal of Higher Education Management, 4(2), pp. 69-82.
Mihret, D.G., Alshareef, M.N. and Bazhair, A. (2017) ‘Accounting professionalization and the state: the case of Saudi Arabia’, Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 45, pp. 29-47.
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Senan, N. (2019) ‘Convenience of accounting education for the requirements of Saudi labour market: an empirical study’, Management Science Letters, 9(11), pp.1919-1932.
Shahid, H., Alexander, A. and Abdalla, T. A. M. (2018) ‘An exploratory study for opening accounting undergraduate program in Saudi Arabia: the stakeholders’ perception & need analysis’, Advances in Social Sciences Research Journal, 5(4), pp. 212-227.
Zureigat, Q.M. (2015) ‘Accounting graduates skills and employers’ needs: the Saudi case’, Jordan Journal of Business Administration, 11(1), pp. 227-238.