Patterns of Learning in the Accountancy Profession: the Roles of Continuing Professional Development and Lifelong Learning

Lindsay, Hilary (2013). Patterns of Learning in the Accountancy Profession: the Roles of Continuing Professional Development and Lifelong Learning. EdD thesis The Open University.



This thesis explores the roles of CPD and lifelong learning for accountants today. Accountants are experiencing more career transitions and learning is an increasingly vital element in the ever changing environment. The research findings will be used to help accountants learn more effectively throughout their careers.

Since 2005, member bodies of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) have been required to implement mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) schemes and to ‘foster a commitment to lifelong learning’ (IFAC, 2004a, p.1). In this new context this research with members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) explores the roles of CPD and lifelong learning, so contributing to both the CPD and lifelong learning research agendas.

The research looks at how accountants perceive and describe their learning activities and experiences using a mixed methods approach involving an initial large-scale survey, exploring learning in one context, followed by in-depth interviews which look at learning across a career.

Two conceptual frameworks, developed during the literature review, underpin the research. These are based on a model developed by Illeris (2009) and incorporate the cognitive, interpersonal and intrapersonal dimensions of learning. Other key concepts referred to throughout the research include identity, agency, engagement, affordance and the metaphors of learning as acquisition, learning as participation and learning as becoming.

The patterns of learning varied according to the roles, sectors, career stages and gender of accountants. The need for career adaptability (Bimrose et al., 2011) emerged from the research and was added to professional competence to produce a new learning model, the professional learning iceberg. It is proposed that ‘learning relating to professional competence’ and ‘learning relating to career adaptability’ are more meaningful concepts than ‘CPD’ and ‘lifelong learning’ to describe the learning needed to succeed in the accountancy profession in the twenty-first century.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions