Enrolment motivation of accounting doctoral students: professionally qualified and non-professionally qualified accountants

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The gap between accounting research and practice can be bridged by academic faculty who are professionally qualified and research trained. However, accounting suffers an acute shortage of accounting doctoral graduates, especially those with a professional accounting qualification, due to a lack of enrolments. This study examines the motivation of 36 accounting doctoral students, including 13 professionally qualified and 23 non-professionally qualified, to provide insights on what makes accounting doctoral education attractive to potential doctoral applicants. Their motivation is analysed using self-determination theory (SDT), which predicts that enrolment to doctoral education is more likely with self-motivated or self-determined individuals. Motivations for enrolling for doctoral education include expectations of a career in academia, enjoyment of research or interest in the topic, status of the PhD qualification and work-life balance. Professionally qualified doctoral students were motivated to enrol because of dissatisfaction with their professional career and lack of autonomy. The paper identifies five motivations for enrolling for doctoral education not reported in the prior literature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalAccounting Forum
Early online date1 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished online - 1 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We echo calls in prior studies for closer engagement between academics and practitioners (Beattie & Smith, ). Our study found that the main motivation for most accounting doctoral enrolees, whether professionally qualified or non-professionally qualified, is seeking a career in academia, as they want to teach. Consistent with this, Plumlee and Reckers () report a potential link between prior teaching experience and accounting doctoral enrolment. Our study also found that previous research experience motivates doctoral enrolment. Therefore, we urge universities and professional bodies to co-operate to create and fund initiatives that enable potential applicants to experience both. One suggestion is to provide one-year master’s posts that enable students to experience light teaching duties, such as tutorials, and support them to undertake preliminary research on a research topic, to masters level, of interest to the student and the profession. Such an initiative is most likely to be successful if the year is treated as a secondment from the professional firm but is partially funded by the university and the professional body. Universities and the profession should co-operate to identify research projects suitable for doctoral education. Finally, professional accounting bodies should promote an academic career as part of their professional development/career planning. Acknowledgements

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Doctoral education
  • doctoral enrolment;
  • extrinsic motivation
  • intrinsic motivation
  • self-determination theory
  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • enrolment
  • Accounting doctoral education
  • interview methodology


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