Students on the Cambridge Master of Accounting (MAcc).

Cambridge Master of Accounting: curriculum, class profile and application

8 December 2021

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The Master of Accounting (MAcc) programme at Cambridge Judge Business School is designed for future leaders looking to lead change and disruption …

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The Master of Accounting (MAcc) programme at Cambridge Judge Business School is designed for future leaders looking to lead change and disruption in accounting. Here’s everything you need to know.

The Cambridge Master of Accounting (MAcc) programme at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School offers something different to traditional Master of Accounting programmes.

Leveraging world class faculty and experience from a team of executive-level professional advisors, the Cambridge MAcc aims to develop a generation of leaders and decision makers in accounting, finance, policy and related fields looking to challenge the status quo.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Cambridge MAcc, including its curriculum, its class profile, and information on applying.

What are the benefits of a Cambridge Master of Accounting?

We spoke to students, alumni and faculty from the Cambridge Master of Accounting (MAcc) programme to find out about the career impact of the MAcc, the leadership skills you’ll learn, and what makes the Cambridge MAcc distinctive.

Why did you choose the Cambridge MAcc programme?

Apoorva Tiku (Cambridge MAcc graduate, Senior Internal Auditor at Steadfast):

“I wanted to do an exciting programme, never seen before, but also challenge my way of thinking and strongly encourage me to improve the way things work in the world.”

Chilufya Mulenga (Cambridge MAcc student, Financial Controller at Tivian):

“And it has a stream dedicated to CFO preparation. As someone who’s very keen to accelerate into a CFO position of a fast-growing technology company, that was really important to me. And I wanted to be adequately supported in that.”

What makes the Cambridge MAcc programme unique?

Alan Jagolinzer (Professor of Financial Accounting at Cambridge Judge Business School):

“We recruited world-class, global, executive-level curriculum advisors to help develop the learning and to bring us real case studies that are ambiguous, that are in our growth areas in our profession to help our students broaden and think more innovatively about their career paths.”

Michael Willis (Director of the Cambridge MAcc programme):

“What makes our programme unique is its emphasis on training, leaders, and innovators in the accounting space. So rather than focus on preparing students for a technical qualification in accounting, we prepare them to deal with the most important problems, and issues, and areas that are in most need of change in the accounting world.”

What are some of the key benefits of the Cambridge MAcc programme?

Apoorva Tiku:

“One of the benefits of the MAcc programme has been that it has taught me never to take any process for granted and to believe in myself, that I can think how to change a process for the better.”

Chilufya Mulenga:

“The second benefit of the MAcc course was that it was part time. So I could keep working, learn things within the residential and over through the VLE, and then be actively applying those principles within my role.”

What skills does the Cambridge MAcc programme strengthen?

Alan Jagolinzer:

“More than ever, accountants need to have a growth mindset. They need to be innovative, they need to be able to think outside the box, they need to bring in teams and run change management projects. And so we’ve incorporated that into our curriculum, recognising that we’re facing considerable growth in areas such as sustainability reporting. And we’re facing considerable crises, for example, in how should we do audit? Can we earn more trust in audit?”

Michael Willis:

“We also strengthen students’ data skills through training on predictive analytics, data visualisation, the ethical, cultural, strategic issues around implementations of analytics.”

Apoorva Tiku:

“The MAcc programme has taught me not to be a submissive and passive leader. In fact, it has taught me to be a vocal leader, challenging typical ideas and ways of doing things, and advocating for constant improvement.”

What are the career outcomes for Cambridge MAcc students?

Alan Jagolinzer:

“Our training is designed to help our students propel themselves into executive-level type careers, where there’s a lot of complex thinking and decisions under uncertainty.”

Michael Willis:

“Our programme helps prepare students for roles such as chief financial officer, policy-related roles, strategy-related roles, positions that require an understanding of analytics and data, positions in sustainability, any positions requiring an understanding of change, of how change works, how to inspire and lead people, and how to innovate.”

How are you using the Cambridge MAcc programme to accelerate your career?

Chilufya Mulenga:

“What I want to do is become a CFO myself, really go in and lead a finance organisation within a high-growth technology company. And that’s where I want to be.”

Apoorva Tiku:

“As soon as I graduated, I was promoted to a senior auditor. And my workplace really recognised the rigorous nature of the MAcc programme at the University of Cambridge. And they’re really excited to see what I can bring to the table.”

The Cambridge Master of Accounting curriculum

The Cambridge MAcc is taught part-time across a 24-month period, combining online learning with in-person week-long seminars every three months in Cambridge, taught by Cambridge faculty, expert advisors, and practitioners.

The Cambridge MAcc differs from traditional MAcc programmes in its critical standpoint towards accounting standards and systems, and how it encourages students to challenge them.

“We challenge the entire infrastructure. We question how and why it’s structured in a certain way, and whether we can advocate for improvement,” says Professor Alan Jagolinzer, Professor of Financial Accounting on the Cambridge MAcc.

Michael Willis.
Dr Mike Willis

Change is a core theme—for instance, how leaders might bring about changes in auditing. “The programme elevates discussion beyond technical audit procedures to engage with senior global change leaders about how to improve audit practice, policy, and regulation” explains Dr Mike Willis, Director of the Master of Accounting programme. This feeds into the prominence of emerging topics, like sustainability, cybersecurity, and disinformation: students learn how to lead innovation in these areas in the context of an increasing pace of change.

Leadership is also central, taught through modules like interpersonal dynamics, with the ambition of creating leaders with the confidence to lead change.

The programme is highly experiential. In-person seminars are dynamic and interactive, supplemented by the online learning that students do in their own time. Mike stresses that students’ full time jobs supplement the curriculum. “Applying what you’re learning in real life strengthens the experiential learning cycle. When you apply it, that’s when learning is solidified in your brain.”

Who is the Cambridge Master of Accounting for?

The Cambridge MAcc has a current cohort of 47 students, who study some of their modules jointly over the two-year length of the programme. Average age is 34, with an average work experience of eight years. The proportion of females on the programme ranges between 34-60% for any given cohort, with 16 female students in the cohort of 2020 and 2021.

The programme draws in students from a broad set of professional backgrounds, including corporate finance, banking, financial reporting, audit, entrepreneurship, policy/regulation, private equity, and law.

The cohort is truly global in nature: 17 nationalities are represented, from five continents.

There’s no prerequisite in terms of professional training or background. The programme does not require an accounting qualification like the ACA or CPA, nor a graduate degree.

How can you apply for the Cambridge Master of Accounting?

A good way to start your application is to send in your résumé. “We’ll review it and get back to you with recommendations on applying, or if another programme is a better fit,” Mike says, adding that he speaks to most students before they apply.

With their written application, students must have two references, as well as proof of completion of a competitive bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or equivalent professional qualification. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to interview.

So what are they looking for?

  • Authenticity
  • Collaborative
  • A change mindset
  • Demonstration of impact in a role.

Authenticity is key. “Tell your story, tell us who you really are, what motivates and drives you,” Mike says. Applicants are given opportunities to tell stories from their past experiences: the more passionately you can do this, the more likely you are to stand out.

Collaborative mindset is also important. “Our programme is intimate, with a small-ish cohort, and we spend lots of time getting to know students and building community. So we want people who are interested in a collaborative engagement,” Alan adds.

Applicants should also show they understand the vision of the programme and how it can add value in their career path. “Demonstrate your mindset towards changing the status quo, show your intellectual curiosity and willingness to question how things are done,” Mike says.

Career opportunities

Career opportunities for Cambridge MAcc graduates range from senior positions in finance like CFO or partnership at an accounting firm, to market regulator roles, to climate or social-related financial disclosure roles.

Alumni extol the impact the programme had on their careers.

Akriti Arya-Cohen.
Akriti Arya-Cohen

Akriti Arya-Cohen enrolled on the Cambridge MAcc nine years after she finished her MBA. Her MBA had given her the basics in accounting—what she lacked was the knowledge and skills to know how to use it to have an impact.

She considered a CPA qualification, as well as other Master of Accounting programmes, but ultimately was drawn in by the global, leadership focus of the Cambridge MAcc.

Interpersonal dynamics was a particularly useful module, something Akriti thinks all finance professionals would benefit from. “You may be a corporate professional, but you still need to create and maintain relationships.”

This had a huge impact on her confidence, which has helped progress her career subsequently. She may have written herself out of new roles before even applying. “But after the programme, I went out looking for these roles. The Cambridge MAcc gave me confidence to go out and start a new position.”

Charlotte Duthie-Smith came with strong accounting expertise under her belt, with both a bachelor’s in accounting and finance, and an ACA qualification. Not looking for programmes with an introductory approach, Cambridge’s leadership approach appealed.

She benefited greatly from the data tools she learned from the Cambridge MAcc. While Excel had been her go-to previously, she quickly learned the benefits of tools like Tableau and SQL, which she could quickly deploy in her work.

Now, she’s actually taken on an informal responsibility for all things data at her current job. “The underlying knowledge you gain gives you confidence to take the lead on initiatives at work. I’ve become a go-to person in my stream for how to get data analytics off the ground.”

What’s clear is that the part-time structure supports student career impact in real time, allowing students to immediately apply what they learn in the programme to career projects. Professional growth comes even before they graduate, and will continue well into their careers.

This article was originally published by BusinessBecause.