Brought to account with BAFA award

Alan Sangster left is presented with lifetime award by Professor Jeffrey Unerman, President of BAFA
Professor Alan Sangster with BAFA President, Professor Jeffrey Unerman, following presentation of Lifetime Achievement Award.

Professor of Accounting Education, Alan Sangster, has devoted a lifetime to the maintenance, the protection and the improvement of education standards in the area of accounting and finance.

From an early stage he identified the impact and importance of rigorous standards, not only for the students who would reap the rewards as graduates, but also for an industry and community where the benefits would have far-reaching and meaningful effects.

An accounting historian by trade, Professor Sangster’s long-held passion for best practice in this industry was recognised last month with a British Accounting and Finance Association Lifetime Achievement Award.

Professor Sangster was in Newcastle (UK) to accept the prestigious award.

“I always wanted to be a teacher,” Professor Sangster, who joined Griffith Department of Accounting, Finance and Economics last July, said. “I wanted to engage students and challenge them to achieve more than normal, to do more than they would have done in other circumstances.”

Challenging times

While challenging students to better themselves, he has always challenged himself too. Not one to sit still, he has driven himself from one challenge to another since he first sat on the board of accreditation overseeing accounting and finance programs across 125 UK universities during the early 1990s.

“My contribution at that time focused on the content and structure of accounting programs, and for six years I sat as chair of a division during the mid-1990s. I was also an external examiner, assessing student marks from university exams. In effect I operated as a quality control officer for about 20 universities across a 20 year period. I saw it as a very important role.”

Professor Sangster, who taught in seven UK universities before moving to Australia, also played an integral part in the development of a higher education teaching quality assessment in Scotland where he analysed in forensic depth the quality and standards of accounting and finance education during the late 1990s.

Today his research expertise reaches from accounting education to accounting history, incorporating accounting systems and forensic accounting.

“I never allowed myself to become stale by staying in the same role for too long,” he says.

This approach extended to key industry publications including Business Accounting where he worked with editor Frank Woods on eight of 13 editions across a 20 year spell. Last year he was appointed editor of Accounting Education: An International Journal, the only academic journal of its type edited outside the United States.

Wider audience

The importance of making accounting and finance accessible to a wider community audience has always been a priority for Professor Sangster and he embraced the online revolution to advance this cause.

He took on an Open University initiative in the UK in 1999 targeting early school leavers of ages ranging from 16 to post-retirement seeking trainee opportunities in accounting. “It was a hugely innovative move, especially in the way it engaged online education. During my time involved, we had 5000 students come through the program, ranging from housewives who had left school early to more mature students who saw new opportunities. I was in a position to help and support up to 600 students at any one time.”

Professor Sangster was also elected as a trustee of the Academy of Accounting Historians in 2013.

As a recipient of the BAFA Lifetime Achievement Award, his substantial and direct contribution to academic accounting and finance over the course of his career has been acknowledged and commended by his peers.