Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

Accounting & Business Ethics ACCFIN5001

  • Academic Session: 2022-23
  • School: Adam Smith Business School
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

This course gives students the opportunity to explore the ethical dimensions of accounting and business practice. In particular the course will provide students with the opportunity to critically explore the ethical foundations upon which accounting practice is based. The course will give students an insight into a number of ethical decision-making theories. It will also give students the opportunity to critically analyse specific ethical dilemmas using these theories.


10 x 2-hour lectures & 4 x 1-hour tutorials

Requirements of Entry

Please refer to the current postgraduate prospectus at: 

Excluded Courses





■ Group assignment (30%) (Max word count 2,500 words)

■ Individual assignment (70%) (Max word count 3,000 words)

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

This course has three key aims: firstly to give students the opportunity to explore the ethical foundations upon which accounting practice is based; secondly to study the way in which ethical decision making takes place within the context of business organisations; and finally to give students the opportunity to explore a number of different ethical theories and apply those theories in the analysis of business ethics dilemmas. The course will also give students the opportunity to explore the varied ethical perspectives of various parties caught-up within ethical dilemmas in accounting and business settings. The course will also encourage students to develop a greater appreciation of their own set of ethical commitments. Emphasis will also be placed on developing the key skills of critical analysis, collecting, organising, analysing and synthesising materials, working in a group and written and oral communication.


The course will aim to enable students to:


■ Understand various ethical theories.

■ Apply different ethical theories to accounting and business ethical dilemmas.

■ Identify ethical dilemmas within a specific business situation.

■ Critically evaluate the moral basis of market economics and the capitalist conception of justice.

■ Critically appraise the ethical foundations of the accounting profession and the role that accounting plays within a system of free market economics.

■ Critically evaluate the ethics of managerial decision making, agency theory and the presumption of wealth maximisation.

■ Critically appraise the role of accounting profession's code of professional conduct.

■ Appreciate the ethical dimension of corporate governance in various kinds of corporate governance failure.

■ Critically explore the roles for self regulation and legislation.

■ Appreciate the impact that accounting and business has on those individuals with whom the businesses deal, including members of the public, customers, and the business's own employees (e.g. in relation to issues of discrimination, harassment, and health and safety at work).

■ Appraise the impact new management accounting techniques on ethical responsibility and accountability.

■ Appreciate the psychological dimension (individual & group/corporate) of accounting and business ethics.

■ Appraise different theories of what it means to be a professional and the role professions play and might play in maintaining ethical standards in accounting and business.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

1. Explain and critically evaluate the ethical foundations upon which accounting and business practice is based.

2. Explain and critically discuss the factors (including psychological factors) that do and should influence ethical decision making within the context of business organisations.

3. Describe and critically evaluate a number of different ethical theories and apply those theories in the analysis of accounting and business ethics issues and dilemmas.

4. Analyse accounting and business situations from an ethical perspective, identifying the key ethical issues emerging and analysing the problem using a variety of ethical theories.

5. Articulate and critically reflect on their own ethical commitments in relation to a chosen ethical issue.

6. Critically evaluate the role that the professions play in maintaining ethical standards in accounting and business contexts.

7. Work collaboratively in a group to produce a combined output, by liaising with other class members, allocating tasks and co-ordinating group meetings.

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.