Public Sector Accounting ACCFIN4053

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: Adam Smith Business School
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course provides students with the opportunity to develop a deep understanding of public sector accounting ie budgeting, accounting, auditing and accountability. This will complement students' understanding of the analogous private sector issues.


10 x 2-hour lectures (one a week for ten weeks) and 8 x 1-hour tutorials

Requirements of Entry

Admission to a BAcc programme or a Joint Honours degree in Accountancy with Mathematics or Statistics.

Excluded Courses






Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

The aims of this course are to explore the theory and practice of public sector accounting (ie budgeting, accounting, auditing and accountability) in the United Kingdom, with a particular emphasis on Scotland. In so doing, the course aims to provide students with the opportunity to develop their ability to:

recognise and explain governance structures within the public sector

• analyse how similarities to, and differences from, the private sector influence budgeting, accounting, auditing and accountability within the public sector

• examine how practices in public sector accounting have been changing, in response to pressures for fiscal transparency, austerity, internationalisation and fiscal devolution

• evaluate the official and academic literature on developments in public sector accounting, such as the effects of the adoption of accruals, off-balance sheet arrangements such as Public-Private Partnerships, consolidation, international harmonisation of standards and regulation, and challenges to the scope of public audit

• locate UK and Scottish developments within the international context and consider their relevance to other jurisdictions

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


1) Apply principles of accounting theory and financial management to the public sector

2) Recognise and clearly explain the accounting frameworks used by local authorities and central government bodies, and be able to discuss the differences between them

3) Understand how funding is raised and applied in the public sector

4) Critically evaluate financial reporting in the public sector compared to the private sector

5) Critically evaluate the development of public sector audit and broader scrutiny arrangements in the public sector

6) Explain the similarities and differences between public and private governance and accountability, including ethics

7) Understand the approaches to capital investment in the public sector and evaluate the costs and benefits of different approaches

8) Search for, use and critically evaluate relevant literature.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.