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University of Liverpool: how we incorporated the ICAEW films into our programme

Author: Helen Scott

Published: 18 Nov 2022

Helen Scott, Senior Lecturer at University of Liverpool explains how she incorporates the ICAEW films into their programme.

Tell us more about the programme at University of Liverpool

The BA Accounting and Finance programme at the University of Liverpool is a practice-oriented degree. Lots of our lecturers are qualified Chartered Accountants and we bring lots of experience into the classroom which our students love. Our graduates are eligible for Credit for Prior Learning for up to eight ACA exams as well as a further four Strategic Credits meaning many graduates only have the Advanced Level of the ACA qualification to complete once they enter an ICAEW training contract. Students really enjoy learning about how the theory and the textbook side of their studies relates to the workplace and what accountants actually do in practice. This is one of the reasons why we were really keen to incorporate the ICAEW films into our programme.  

What films did you first introduce students to?

We initially used the film False Assurance in the classroom. The film is split into several parts of around 10 – 12 minutes each and we showed one part in class each week. This worked really well as it left plenty of time to discuss the issues that the film raised. For example, the fundamental principles and threats to objectivity identified in the IESBA Code of Ethics can sometimes seem quite clear-cut to students. They can end up thinking ‘of course I would recognise a self-interest threat and I’d know the appropriate safeguards’ or ‘of course I’d do the right thing and speak up if I thought something hadn’t been done properly or something had been missed’. They then watch the film and get an insight into what a real workplace looks like. They can see the time pressure people are under and so how easy it is for mistakes to be made or things to be missed. They also see how difficult it is to suggest your manager or a colleague hasn’t done their job properly. They see how difficult it is to keep persisting with an issue or a question when someone more senior than you seems to be reacting as if you are being unreasonable or irritating. Suddenly things don’t seem quite so clear-cut. This really opens students minds to look at other aspects of their studies that seem straightforward and challenges them to think about how things might look different in practice. They were particularly interested (or perhaps alarmed) by the consequences for a member of the team who used social media in a professional setting but inappropriately. This was a fantastic teaching point and something they could really relate to. We did manage to calm them down and remind them about the ‘confidentiality’ principle they had extensively studied already.

How did you structure the sessions using ICAEW films?

Including the films in the classroom on a week by week basis really helped to keep students engaged. We built up anticipation as to what might happen next and created a fun atmosphere as if we were all tuning into our favourite tv programme. The training materials that accompany the films were very useful in prompting discussion and for designing learning activities. To help keep a wide range of students motivated, I developed ‘exam style questions’ based on the scenarios that came up in the film. This helped students to see how this activity supported them in meeting the learning outcomes of the module or in more simple terms – how it would help them pass the exam! 
When the second film, Without Question, was released, we decided to make an event out of the launch. We took students to a local cinema to watch the film in full. Attendance from students at this screening was fantastic! There was an added buzz of excitement which our normal lecture theatres do not provide and this very much helped us to get more students to engage. We gave students some pointers at the start of the session of things to be looking out for. We then watched the first half of the film with students looking out for the key issues involved. During the intermission, we had a discussion based around the training materials provided alongside the film. This brought out discussion that is much harder to draw out from textbook materials. The real-life aspect of the film brought out subtleties that bring to life the issues that may arise in practice. This deeper, more practical understanding will serve students well in the workplace.

Have your students been introduced to our latest film, All Too Familiar ™?

Just as the students were starting to feel a bit more confident about their ability to question things, speak up to their senior colleagues and to be alert to additional risks, the ICAEW released a new film, All Too Familiar ™  with a whole new set of revelations for our students to consider. Once again, students were immersed in what it is like to be in the workplace and how it is possible to miss serious issues. The film explored identifying money laundering flags and customer due diligence. With particular regard to customer due diligence, this highlighted to students an area that can seem pretty obvious and clear-cut to them (they often think ‘of course we would complete all customer due diligence procedures’) and how things can go awry. These practical insights are so valuable to the rounded education and deeper, practical understanding of the responsibilities of accountants that our students need. 

What has been the feedback from students?

Our student feedback on the films is fantastic. Whilst many love the razzmatazz of going to a cinema, we had an equal amount of success showing the film in class. Students really had their eyes open to how different it is seeing an exam question with a scenario laying out the pertinent facts of a business versus trying to identify audit risks and threats to independence in a fast paced, commercial environment. They were really astounded (in a good way) about how you need to be alert to identifying additional risks based on seemingly casual conversations with the client. They were also (mildly) shocked by the information not received by the auditor that was revealed in client conversation. This leads to interesting questions being asked by our students and deeper discussions about very important issues.
The films give a brilliant, real-life insight into the challenges facing accountants in the workplace. They also have a really positive effect on students’ experience. Do get in touch if you would like to find out more about the ICAEW Films.